Are the emergency services digital-ready?

More mobile devices. More data. More connected machines.

Staggering growth in these areas was the focus of this year’s Mobile World Congress. (Really, it was more a ‘Digital World Congress’).

What struck me was the potential benefit that the emergency services – particularly the police force – would stand to gain by truly opening up to digital methods.

By learning from and leveraging consumer digital technologies, there’s a multitude of benefits to be had. But a digital strategy is needed to capture them, to ensure that the technology available to the police is kept in balance with the rate of change in consumer technology.

While bring-your-own (BYO) isn’t necessarily suitable for the police, more use of consumer IT could be. With officers and employees comfortable with these technologies from their consumer lives, training requirements would be minimal.

Citizen engagement

Making better use of consumer technologies would also aid citizen engagement.

Let’s take the integrated cameras in mobile devices. The quality of these cameras is improving all the time and they can provide real value in early evidence gathering at scenes of crimes.

Many of us have camera phones, enabling us to capture unique moments – just take the London riots as an example. Through proper citizen engagement these captured scenes can help solve – and even deter – crimes.

The use of apps can also enable closer engagement within communities – opening up the lines of communication and enabling direct reporting of crimes and other incidents. Apps could also help build community support groups like Neighbourhood Watch.

Connected machines

The growth of machine-to-machine technology also brings some interesting opportunities. Total sim-enabled connections will grow by up to 10% per annum, with 1.2 billion connected devices by 20171. This poses the opportunity for digitally-connected CCTV that could instantly alert officers to sightings of wanted criminals. It’ll also give the ability to provide real-time navigation and tracking of patrol cars, so sending back-up is faster, and lone officers are kept safer.

With the advent of 4G, the capacity to stream HD-quality video and carry out facial recognition becomes a real possibility, too.

And by 1 January 2015, EU regulations dictate the need for eCall in all new cars. This means that if a car crashes it will automatically send alerts to public safety answering points. It provides the opportunity for speedier response to and more accurate locating of incidents.

These are just some of the options available to our emergency services. There’s a huge opportunity to get more from what digital technology has to offer.

Watch Mike’s video and hear him discuss the topic for yourself.

Read the Mobile Economy 2013 report or see what we can offer the public sector at o2.co.uk/enterprise/sectors/public-sector.

1 http://www.gsmamobileeconomy.com/GSMA%20Mobile%20Economy%202013.pdf