London’s Metropolitan Police Service has yet to decide on the mobile hardware it will provide to front-line forces despite a lengthy trial and evaluation process.
A Freedom of Information request submitted to the Met by V3 showed that just 641 devices have been rolled out to officers in the Hammersmith and Fulham areas since plans were announced to provide 15,000 to 20,000 iPads to front-line police.
The rollout was a limited trial between July 2014 and March 2015 to find out how police could use mobile devices to aid operations and determine the hardware that offers the best value for money.
The Met spent £1.2m on hardware during that time, including the iPads and supporting servers and accessories, £4.1m on custom software development, which included the databases to support mobile operations, £600,000 on business and management activities and £100,000 on licences. The costs also include the replacement of 12 tablets during the trial period.
A spokeswoman from the force said that the 641 iPads remain in use and have been well received, but the trial did not result in the Met deciding to roll out iPads across its entire force.
This means that £6m was spent on a trial that yielded no decision on suitable hardware and systems for the Met. It is worth noting than some of the software and back-end systems are reusable and not strictly limited to use with the iPads.
The Met explained that the pilot is in part ongoing as it collects information and assesses the use of suitable mobile hardware.
This extends beyond just looking at tablets, and is part of the Met’s wider Total Technology Strategy that runs until 2017.
“There is ongoing development of a system to identify and roll out mobile technology to additional staff across the Metropolitan Police Service,” a spokesperson told V3.
“Making our officers more mobile through technology such as tablets is a key part of our plans to make savings. It will ensure that front-line officers can maximise their time fighting crime in our communities and enable the continued reduction in the size of our estate.”
A spokesman for the Met told V3 that the force cannot speculate about the mobile technology it will end up using, nor is there any strict deadline as to when it will make such a decision.
But the spokeswoman told us that the Met anticipates being able to move towards the procurement of role-specific equipment later in 2016 and to determine exactly how officers will best use mobile technology.
It appears to have taken the Met a year to start considering the next steps in evaluating the mobile technology it needs for front-line policing, indicating that it certainly does not move in the agile way that the Government Digital Service wants to encourage in the public sector.
The Met is committed to rolling out mobile technology to its officers but we will have to wait and see whether iPads, from a hardware and software perspective, are up to the job.
Procuring technology at the Met is not a cut and dried process as new technology rollouts need to be compatible with the Met’s existing IT infrastructure and back-end systems, which are also undergoing changes.
This means that procurement decisions need to be made in a rather fluid IT environment, and the Met needs to consider all the changes taking place to avoid rolling out hardware and software that soon become obsolete or incompatible with the systems.
The process is further complicated as the Met’s procurement process needs to be approved and signed off by the London Mayor’s Office, which first requires a new mayor to be elected to take over from Boris Johnson.
Each mayoral candidate appears to have a technology agenda, but time will tell whether their commitment to London’s digital future bears fruit.
Fabes has held senior IT positions for over 30 years
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