Police officers in London could be using smartphones and tablets running Android and Windows 8 by the end of the year, according to the force’s CIO.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) revealed plans for a major £200m IT shake-up on Friday, as it prepares to embrace new technologies such as cloud computing, big data and to roll out 15,000 mobile devices to frontline staff.
So far an order for 500 iPad Minis has been placed, to be used by frontline officers in Hammersmith and Fulham for a trial starting in the spring.
However, speaking to V3, Met Police CIO Richard Thwaite said he expects the use of Android and Windows devices to be approved by the Communications Electronics Security Group (CESG) department within GCHQ this year, to enable more devices to be used by frontline officers.
“Because of security we are restricted to iOS devices for the pilot but we are anticipating Android and Windows 8 will be approved later in the year, so we will look to roll that out,” he said.
V3 contacted CESG for confirmation of the plans to approve Android or Windows platforms, but had received no reply at the time of publication.
Thwaite said having a choice of platforms would provide several benefits to officers, including avoiding spiralling costs for hardware purchases.
“We will look to provide a broad set of devices because depending on officer’s duties some may want an iPad Mini, some may want a smartphone and some may want a full-sized tablet as a desktop replacement,” he said.
“If you’re only using one device you can get into single supplier problems, but if you can use several, you can compete and buy from a variety of vendors. Everything we are doing is device agonistic, such as the applications we are building.”
Thwaite confirmed that this would revolve around building applications for officers on HTML5 technology and that in conjunction with this it was planning to consolidate existing databases into a single system.
“Some of our application databases are 20 years old, if not older, and there is often no integration. For example, in a domestic violence case, an officer will put a victim’s name into 12 different systems,” he said.
Thwaite said the creation of a single database set, coupled with the use of mobile devices to allow officers to log data on the scene rather than writing it in a notebook to type up later at a station, would be a major improvement for the force.
"By removing the need to return to a station and enter information we can save between 30 minutes and an hour for an officer, which is about the same as 900 extra officers on the frontline."
Furthermore, Thwaite said the use of mobile devices would help the Met provide more useful information to officers on the beat.
“With the location-centric capabilities on a device we can give an officer more information about an area, such as any victims of crime who need checking on, or known offenders in the area,” he said.
“The Met knows about the streets of London but the police do not have this information, so we are building apps to create a better way of presenting this.”
The project comes after reports last year slammed the use of IT at the Met as out of date and inefficient, with claims that some PCs could take 30 minutes to boot up, wasting millions of hours in productivity.
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