The Home Office has revealed that it has contracted Samsung to supply and upgrade the smartphones and all other accessories used by the police, fire, ambulance and other public safety users across the UK in a deal reportedly worth £210m over 3 years.
According to Samsung the LTE - Long-Term Evolution or 4G devices were developed through extensive research and development to provide the most suitable solution for the challenges which currently affect communication within the emergency services. Fully optimised for the emergency environment, the smartphones and accessories will have a rugged design, be water resistant and the hardware and software features will support emergency services functionality and critical voice services.
Suk-Jea Hahn, Executive Vice President of Samsung Electronics’ Global Mobile B2B Team: “Next-generation public safety communications is an important area of focus for Samsung, and we are now looking forward to working in partnership with ESN and UK emergency services organisations to bring our technology to the entire public safety community on the front line, supporting the great work they do every day.”
The exact device used will be determined by each Force, but they will be tougher than the average iPhone or Samsung in order to survive the rough and tumble of emergency services work. As well as enabling access to applications designed specifically for police use, including a ‘Push-To-Talk’ feature and an emergency button, they will offer a wider range of functions including body worn video and Android computing functions.
The ESN will provide capability for future integration with mobile policing and help emergency services work more efficiently through greater use of video and digital technologies. Streaming high resolution video is one of the most eagerly anticipated features - being able to transmit live images of, for example, an accident scene, will allow officers and control room operators a much better assessment of the scene than was previously possible with voice description.
Other new capabilities also include allowing front line officers to instantly check relevant databases for a person’s details. This will be a huge benefit, reducing radio traffic and saving valuable time. The new service will also enable Communications Groups to be more dynamic, with the ability to easily add users from across the emergency services, enabling better management of major incidents. It will also enable hand held devices to be updated ‘over the air’ as opposed to having to be returned to base for configuration changes.
Emergency Services across the UK have already been testing and using multiple mobile devices and applications over the last few years using both 3G and 4G capability as well as satellite technology. We’ve highlighted a number of these below:
Surrey and Sussex Police
Officers from Surrey and Sussex Police Forces are using specialist mobile technology to improve frontline policing and reporting.
The joint project delivered by Airwave Solutions, in partnership with O2, enables 1,250 officers at Surrey Police and 1,750 at Sussex Police to replace paper-based activities such as vehicle registration checks, speeding tickets, and tests for the influence of drugs or alcohol on drivers with intuitive digital forms on mobile devices.
Both forces have seen substantial time and cost saving benefits. Officers have saved up to two hours per shift, time that can now be better spent policing the streets and supporting the public. This modernisation of processes has enabled Surrey Police to cut costs by £7m.
West Yorkshire Police
More than 5,000 smartphones and tablets have been handed out to officers in West Yorkshire Police over the last three years as part of a £4m project to allow them to spend more time on the front line. A report by West Yorkshire Police says the performance of the Samsung devices has increased every month for the last year and that they are now widely used by the majority of front line officers.
As part of the scheme, more than 4,400 Samsung Note 3 devices have been issued to officers “in front-facing roles”, 550 Samsung S5 Neo devices given to staff in back office roles, and 200 Samsung eight inch tablets to crime scene investigators.
Two police forces in Wales have been using Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphones running on Vodafone’s 4G network as part of a push to improve the use of digital technologies in the field. They have also developed their own in-house app, called iPatrol that offers access to key databases required by officers when in the field.
This allows them to access police databases directly from the handsets, and log, save and share details of crimes during a shift rather than having to write up the information back at base.
The forces estimate that using the mobile devices in this way will increase time on the beat by the equivalent of 436,000 hours per year.
Scottish Ambulance Service paramedics are currently testing new technology which could allow them to beam videos and ultrasound images from patients to hospitals before they arrive.
The trial is being put in place among teams working in rural areas and could save crucial minutes in getting someone diagnosed which might mean the difference between life and death.
Scans take less than five minutes to record and they are then transmitted with a video summary of the patient’s condition via European Space Agency satellite to emergency consultants, who assess the patient’s needs and give advice and feedback to the paramedic.
Body Worn Cameras
Non-streaming body-worn video is an already proven technology. The largest deployment is thought to be across the UK’s Metropolitan Police Service, which is in the process of rolling out devices to 22,000 frontline officers.
The ability of body-worn cameras to increase situational awareness and assist with training has also seen the devices picked up by fire services. In the UK, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has started to roll out the devices to see how operational improvements can be made.
Streaming body-worn cameras are more useful for special operations. In police forces, it is suggested this capability would be useful for firearms officers, because the devices can quickly transmit critical information to the control room.
Generally, control rooms rely on voice alone to find out what’s happening on the ground, rarely do they have access to video and real-time video, but with the roll-out of the new ESN, police forces will have the ability to get the real-time video streamed from police officers’ body-worn cameras directly into the control room, instantly transforming situational awareness.
Now, without even saying anything, the control room sees everything: an incident commander can then assess what is needed to deal with the situation. They can see exactly what’s happening and know how many officers to send and that transforms efficiency and, ultimately, helps save lives.
Body-worn video deployments are fairly new, and the cameras’ capabilities – including streaming – are in their infancy. More operational uses will be discovered and developed as people start to use the devices with streaming abilities and the mobile network capability becomes more robust.
Devon & Cornwall and Dorset Police became the first police forces in the UK to launch a fully operational drone unit.
The latest in drone technology has been trialled in the respective forces since November 2015 and such has been their benefit, an operational drone unit has been created; the first of its kind in the UK.
Chief Superintendent Jim Nye, Commander for the Alliance Operations Department, said: “This technology offers a highly cost effective approach in supporting our officers on the ground in operational policing. Drones will aid officers as part of missing person searches; crime scene photography; responding to major road traffic collisions; coastal and woodland searches and to combat wildlife crime. Drones can even help police track and monitor suspects during a firearm or terrorist incident, as it will allow officers to gain vital information, quickly, safely, and allow us to respond effectively at the scene.”
Mobile Facial Recognition & Artificial Intelligence
Privacy issues aside, Emergency Services will be able to use body cameras fitted with real-time facial recognition to help them catch criminals and find missing people. Motorola has partnered with artificial intelligence start-up Neurala to create smart cameras capable of independently searching for criminals and missing children. The companies are still developing a prototype, but hope the AI-driven cameras could soon help police find targets in 'suspicious' or 'chaotic' environments. Neurala has created patent-pending facial recognition software capable of working on very small computers, allowing it to be incorporated into wearable devices.
Police in Durham have begun using a new artificial intelligence tool to help officers decide whether a suspect should be kept in custody. The Harm Assessment Risk Tool (Hart) has been trained with data from five years of offending histories, and uses the information to classify suspects as low, medium or high risk of offending if released. It was first tested in 2013, and its classification of suspects as low risk was accurate 98% of the time. Those classed as high risk was correct 88% of the time. The system has been programmed to err on the side of caution, and will most likely classify suspects as a medium or high risk in order to avoid suggesting the release of someone who may commit a crime.
However, the tool is limited in that it only works with data from Durham Constabulary, so it cannot take into consideration crimes that took place outside of the area.
In this post we have merely scratched the surface of device technology and the risks and benefits associated with them. What is certain is that with the advent of 4G and newer 5G technologies, emergency services will be able to produce and have access to more data in the field than ever before leading to operational efficiency improvement and improved public and operational safety.
At APD Communications we are work alongside critical suppliers as well as the emergency services to ensure a seamless transition to ESN. To keep updated on ESN and how APD are supporting the transition, click here.
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner
Engineering and Technology