The need for police forces to have access to real-time (or nearly real-time) information is ever increasing with explosive urban growth. At the same time, austere budget climates continually stretch law enforcement resources, causing police organizations to seek new ways to enable effective police operations on duty.
Mobile policing was a core theme during the 2013 Nordic Police Workshop in Copenhagen and a key requirement noted by all forces in attendance. In addition to supporting their expanding daily responsibilities, large worldwide events will require on-demand intelligence for crowd control, counter-terrorism prevention, and emergency response on the front lines.
This heightened focus on mobile policing is motivated by three critical drivers for facilitating information at the front line:
The need for strong identity control to enable secure information access to officers via cars, mobile devices, and tablets
The demand for information assurance to secure data-at-rest on devices and/or surfaced to devices, depending on access to back-end systems
The requirement for geo-fencing and/or geo-referencing of information provisioned to and from an officer
Huge advances in mobility have already resulted in tremendous improvements in the field. Police cars have become secure hotspots with broadband access to many sensor feeds, CCTV, call dispatch and communication with nearby units. At the same time, the police car command center enables control over the vehicle and its communication, doors, signals, and more, so the officers can control local printing services, connect to biometric readers, and access back-end services.
In order to continue enabling effective on-duty police operations, law enforcement organizations will need to define mobile police backend as-a-service to the police car and its officers. “Mobile back-end as a service” (MBaaS) is a new approach that is quickly gaining traction among law enforcement agencies as an alternative to mobile middleware. It uses unified Application Platform Interfaces (APIs) and Software Developer's Kits (SDKs) to connect mobile apps to back-end cloud storage, providing common back-end features such as data storage, push notifications, social networking integration, location services, and user management.
Traditional mobile middleware integrates back-end services to the app through a physical, on-premises server. MBaaS, by comparison, integrates back-end services via the cloud, offering a new way to connect back-end services to mobile apps. Gartner analysts predict that by 2016, 40 percent of mobile application development projects will leverage cloud mobile back-end services.
The next generation of mobile applications will be driven by API-controlled connectors as digital glue to a wide range of back-end services, including:
Case management in support of public safety and justice,
Intelligence access through search,
Task and dispatch in managing incidents,
National systems verification through federated search,
Warrant and crime recording when taking custody,
Verify against missing and/or violent persons in street encounters,
Reporting incidents in emergency and/or at the crime scene, and
Abuse and violation reporting.
The mobile devices of the future – both commercial-off-the-shelf and ruggedized for special conditions — will be the access point for real-time, intelligence-driven police forces in the 21st century. As mobile policing continues to evolve and mature, this fast, efficient, and reliable back-office police work will serve an even more critical role to frontline officers on duty.