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Microsoft’s Citizen Safety Architecture

Microsoft recently launched the Citizen Safety Architecture (CSA), designed to help governments and public safety agencies respond to public safety threats in real time. In brief, CSA is a suite of Microsoft and partner software solutions designed to improve the operational effectiveness of multi-agency response by information sharing and collaboration. It helps agencies respond to critical incidents while at the same time helping those agencies reduce their costs.

Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, discussed CSA recently at the Public Safety Symposium in Redmond, WA. Turner shared with the audience that his father was the senior U.S. Treasury agent and worked in the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City when the bomb went off. Fortunately, his father survived, and finding ways to increase the safety of responding personnel became a top priority for Turner.

Turner understands the nature of the typical police department and recognized that in the United States more than 10,000 public safety agencies have fewer than 70 employees. “Now, when you think about this, through this Microsoft Citizen Safety Architecture we’re able to bring our extensive learning from years of experience and millions of customers to provide a prescriptive asset of architecture guidance to help [agencies] address the challenges [they] face,” Turner said.

Turner elaborated: “This is an off-the-shelf and best-of-breed software solution architecture that really is deigned for quick deployment, and this architecture also tackles things such as agency management, helping give real-time awareness of an agency’s assets and operations, intelligence analysis and investigative support, providing efficient analysis of large sets of disparate data across multiple agencies.”

The architecture can increase the effectiveness in preventing threats to general citizen safety and helps agencies respond to critical incidents. Citizen Safety Architecture is the baseline architecture that is the foundation of public safety agencies. CSA can be used to track personnel and other assets and in daily routine operations such as ports of entry and borders. In addition, it is beneficial in crisis management, disaster response and emergency response, as well as the often-overlooked event management area. Anyone in the public safety industry knows that a crisis or emergency can often be averted with proper event management.

Tim Bloechl is the managing director of Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Safety and National Security. Upon joining Microsoft, Bloechl brought with him an extensive military and intelligence background and was brought in to build the defense business. Because Bloechl’s father spent more than 25 years on the job in law enforcement, increasing the safety of all public safety responders was an important goal for him.

In the past, he said, Microsoft had a very large defense and public safety business around the world, but there wasn’t a corporate level focus on it. So they made the decision to have an element in Redmond, WA that focused on these types of customers. “We began looking at homeland security, police and fire around the world and the question was, ‘What can we do that can actually focus on saving lives out there?’ We just want to do the best possible thing we can to ensure there is communications and IT capability that is beneficial to the police officers on the ground.”

After assembling teams of experts in the public safety field from around the world, the team members concentrated on what they could do, working with their partners to benefit public safety. They decided they needed to identify what was presently being done in the field around the world that could be utilized. The team became aware of projects in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands, which became some of the core components.

“This all came together last spring; a team was in my office discussing the Single View Platform, the technology and some of the customers. It really caught my eye, and I said, ‘This is something we should look at, a visualization situational awareness capability,’” Bloechl said.

CSA Solutions

Microsoft CSA solutions include Single View Platform (SVP), which provides a single view of data and information so the responders can better see the true picture of the situation.

Depending on the agency needs, SVP can be program defined or user defined.

According to Turner, “SVP helps visualize your current situation in one consolidated view of multiple data streams, and today it’s being used by the United Nations, the International Telecommunications Union and the U.S. Department of Transportation, just to name a few.”

A second solution involves the Microsoft Dutch team working with the Dutch military and other government agencies in preparation for a disaster response exercise called “Eagle.” According to Bloechl, Eagle focused on “how can you improve communications between different types of government agencies, including military all the way down to local police and fire, and bring them all together when there is a crisis so they can work together.” There have now been two of these exercises, Eagle 1 and Eagle 2, and out of that came the Eagle solution.

The Eagle solution brought Microsoft together with partners ESRI and GEODAN who teamed with the Dutch government in the Netherlands on the CSA implementation. This partnership allows a seamless collaboration between multiple agencies by delivering an application suite and services. Eagle was awarded the 2008 Dutch public safety award.

The Microsoft FusionX solution was built to support fusion centers. It allows data from various sources, including federal, state, local, tribal and private agencies to be fused into a more complete picture. Bloechl said the FusionX solution pulls information from all disparate areas such as human intelligence and imagery and puts it all together for analysis that can be used by public safety to determine potential targets, problems, suspects. This enhances all areas from planning to prevention to response. Bloechl added: “FusionX has been deployed and is in use now in three different places: Illinois State Police in their State Terrorism and Intelligence Center (STIC); Massachusetts State Police; and San Diego, with more coming soon.”

The Microsoft Intelligence Framework (IF) solution is just as it sounds, an intelligence framework that permits the sharing of information by intelligence organizations and law enforcement from around the world, allowing them to work together in the fight against terrorism, major crimes and organized crime.

The Microsoft Incident Response Platform is composed of a variety of solutions from a variety of partners, including IDV Solutions, eSponder and CRN Solutions. It allows situational information using built-in geospatial information to assist incident responders and has been successfully used in many events, including the Super Bowl.

Another solution that has been around for several years is the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS), pronounced “kets.” A Toronto detective contacted Bill Gates and told him that law enforcement had a problem with Internet exploitation of children and was experiencing significant challenges tracking violators. Gates agreed that a solution was needed, and the result was CETS, a software tool developed in cooperation with Microsoft and Canadian international law enforcement.

CETS uses standard Web-based technology and contains powerful features that allow investigators to share and search information, organize and analyze information, and import information during the entire process from detection to investigation.

Bloechl said CETS “has the ability to take information using information technology, analyze it, and work with it in such a way and collaborate with others involved in the same business so officers and detectives could share across all the police lines.” CETS has already been deployed to other countries, and presently there are “nine going on 10 countries” using CETS. Bloechl said CETS has helped put violators in jail and thereby protected other potential victims.

Looking Ahead

As the solutions came together, the question became how to package it and describe the new solution to customers around the world. Just as important was how to describe it to the representatives in the field, most of whom do not have police or public safety experience, so they could work with the Microsoft customers. According to Bloechl, “We put together what is called the ‘solution showcase’ in Microsoft terms. We pulled these different capabilities together, had representatives of each of the teams that built these, and developed what is known today as the ‘Citizen Safety Architecture.’”

Bloechl said, “One of the things we have observed is the ubiquity of the software and the platform allows us to replicate a lot of these things pretty much anywhere, and that’s the beauty of this thing. So many people use our capabilities in their daily lives that if you can provide public safety-focused solutions built to operate just like when you are at home (e-mail, surfing the Web), it makes it so much easier for people to do their work.”

Bloechl’s view of the future is visionary while attainable. “I walk around with a little phone that with the punch of a button I can see the traffic situation in my area. I would like the same capability to be in the hands of a police officer on the beat so he can look at his area and see what other things are happening or get visibility on where his buddies are. If you are a firefighter, [you’d like] the ability to pull up building records. All those kinds of capabilities are out there today, and we have to find a way to pull them together so we can get that information down to where it really matters.”

There is no department too small for CSA. “Thousands of agencies already have Microsoft accounts, are using Microsoft software on their networks locally, so all we have to do is add these solutions on top of the architecture already there, which saves a lot of money. If we can come up with solutions they can deploy on top of what they are already paying for, it makes things much easier for the agencies,” Bloechl said. It’s a win-win solution for public safety agencies and the citizens they protect.

Kevin Gordon spent 25 years in law enforcement and retired as a chief of police. He holds an MA in security management, and his is a CEM and a CPP. He is a national and regional officer of the International Police Association. He can be reached at Photos courtesy of Microsoft.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jul/Aug 2009

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