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Best Practices for InterOp and Data Sharing

Today’s emerging technologies in data-sharing solutions, such as Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD), Records Management Systems (RMS), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), provide agencies with the necessary tools to mount well-coordinated responses.

In addition, best practices and standards development set forth by organizations such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM ), have streamlined communications and provided the interoperability essential to multiple jurisdiction and joint operations. Benefits of these standards include compatibility with existing systems, interoperability among agencies and vendors, and improved intra- and inter-agency communications.


Technology Improves Incident Response

According to Barry Wilson, Director of Product Management for Intergraph, an agency’s CAD system acts as the hub for its public safety operations. While it is common to interface a CAD with other systems (i.e., telephone, video, messaging), integration of these systems can be challenging for agencies and their IT departments.

“Historically, interfaces have been point-to-point and custom, which are very costly to design, write, implement, test and maintain over the life cycle of the product,” Wilson said. “Any time a third-party system changes, it creates havoc for these custom interfaces between systems.”


adds that advances in integration technologies are helping to overcome this problem. “A loosely coupled middleware application, such as Intergraph’s EdgeFrontier® software, helps to mitigate changes on either side of the interface, enabling easier interfacing and seamless integration between systems. An application that is version-independent and which provides a standard framework can reduce the cost and time for deploying new systems, applications and devices, as well as increase the reliability of those systems.”

Tom Miller, Director of the Government Market Strategy Team for Motorola Solutions, knows first-hand about the importance of effective command, control, and communication in emergency situations. Prior to joining Motorola, Miller spent 25 years with the Michigan State Police Department and retired as the Deputy Director. In the past two decades, he has noticed a clear trend toward public-safety system consolidation, with radio networks developed to cover counties, regions and states. Jurisdictions, as well, have merged their communications dispatch centers across agencies and political boundaries.

“These efficiencies, driven in large part by standards, have improved public-safety first response capability,” Miller stated. “The integration of existing and new technologies provides a seamless and efficient set of tools to enable customers to enhance the use of technology in policing and incident response. Technology, such as Motorola’s Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC) solution, integrates inputs from multiple data sources such as video, sensors, alarms and records.”

With the Real-Time Intelligence Console (RIC), an analyst can communicate critical information via integrated LMR functionality, share multimedia data, keep crucial video feeds in view at all times, and monitor active incidents and events—all from one location.


noted that interoperability, standardization, and cross-agency collaboration work together to improve operational efficiency and reduce the total cost of ownership for the systems involved. “For example, the City of Edmonton, Canada adopted a “one-city” approach—where municipal public safety organizations share incident data and a common map.

EdgeFrontier enables easier data sharing between Edmonton Fire Rescue and Alberta Health Services, the regional EMS provider,” Wilson commented. The fire department’s CAD system automatically notifies the EMS department when a fire event requires emergency medical support and, likewise, the EMS CAD system notifies Edmonton Fire Rescue when a medical event requires its assistance.

“Better systems integration improves dispatch and routing and ensures the continued success of efforts such as Edmonton Fire Rescue’s ‘Quick Accept’ system. Intergraph’s CAD enables the agency to create a ‘Quick Accept’ for emergency calls, which dispatches units while the emergency call-taker is still on the phone taking information and feeding data to the field units using mobile technology.”


added that the Quick Accept process alone has shortened response times by at least 30 seconds.


Standards and Best Practices

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau defines Best Practices as “the most efficient and effective method of accomplishing the tasks in each of our covered areas, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people, responses, organizations or functions.” While the Commission’s Communications Security Reliability and Interoperability Council develops and recommends best practices to the FCC to ensure optimal security and interoperability of public-safety communications systems, individual agencies can develop their own set of best practices to operate more efficiently.

Miller stated that new-hire and in-service training, as well as changes to agency policy and operations orders, helps to ensure the adoption and consistent application of best practices into the daily operations of public safety agencies. “Typically public-safety best practices are established as a result of professional association review, internal assessment, field testing and exercising. Once adopted, a best practice is operationalized as part of agency policy in attempt to ensure personnel react to emergency situations as trained and in accordance with best practices. This promotes the most efficient, effective, and safe response to an emergency situation.”


added that in addition to providing adherence to codes and regulations, best practices ensure that the most efficient and effective methods are used for incident response. “For example, by defining standard NIEM messages that can be used across disparate CAD systems, those systems can better communicate, allowing for better mutual aid workflows.” NIEM is an intergovernmental initiative designed to develop, disseminate and support enterprise-wide information exchange standards and processes that enables jurisdictions to automate information sharing.

“Support for standards improves multi-agency interoperability and simplifies connections with regional message hubs and other external data sources. Utilizing standards-based, repeatable procedures allows public safety personnel to communicate and perform effectively in emergency situations,” Wilson explained.

Miller said that Motorola reaches out to its customer base to develop technologies that help establish and support best practices in public safety. The company also utilizes market analysis, use case assessment, and field testing to identify gaps in workflow process and address customer needs.

“Motorola’s Real-Time Intelligence Console is our differentiator. It unifies data from multiple sources to turn information into intelligence so public safety officials can detect an incident in real time, as it unfolds, and trigger the appropriate response. The Real-Time Intelligence Console is a Motorola developed technology that is the cornerstone of Motorola’s Real-Time Crime Center Solution,” Miller stated.

In addition to soliciting feedback from its customers, Intergraph participates in several standards committees and organizations, and commits resources and development efforts in support of evolving public safety-related standards. “This helps keep us ahead of the curve and responsive to agency needs,” Wilson said.

“It has enabled us to provide new innovations that extend incident management and agency capabilities, such as CAD improvements that enable Next Generation 911 in the communications center; person-level tracking capabilities that permit dispatchers to track officers outside of their vehicles for improved safety; smartphone and tablet apps that extend CAD to the field; business intelligence tools for improved incident reporting and analysis; Web and field-based records management software; and more.”

Miller added that technology solutions like Motorola’s Real-Time Crime Center can serve as the vehicle to operationalize the concept of predictive policing, helping to make public safety more efficient and less reactionary. Rather than providing a “one size fits all” solution, Motorola works with the customer upfront to build a solution that leverages current investments and accommodates each customer’s needs.

“This is a holistic approach to solving customers’ challenges. It will help agencies become more cost efficient in providing police services in their communities, a best practice by any standard,” Miller noted. Wilson agreed: “Better integration improves operational efficiency and cross-agency collaboration and reduces the total cost of ownership for the systems involved.”


Published in Law and Order, Jul 2014

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