Five ways digital technology could change contact in the control room

Technology is developing at an alarming rate. Five years ago, who would have thought we’d be tweeting, sending texts and reading the latest headlines from our watches? With these technological advances marching ahead in our personal lives, we look at five ways they could also change contact patterns in today’s control room.

Smart Devices in the Home – picture of Alexa


By 2036, the UK population will increase by 11%. What’s more, it’s expected that 23.9% - almost 1 in 4 – will be of pensionable age, compared with 33% in Europe. 1 in 3 will have at least one fall per a year, likely to result in hospitalisation – so vulnerability is set to increase significantly.

Technology will support this ageing population. Indeed, there are already trials and apps that integrate to smart devices, such as My SOS Family, that allow anyone who has suffered a fall to shout ‘Alexa, start MY Family SOS’ and the device will alert a series of pre-configured phone numbers and email addresses.


Amazon is also now looking at how the integration can work directly into the control room, dialling the emergency services on certain commands. The benefits aren’t just for the elderly – it’s easy to see how these can extend to younger children or individuals with a physical disability.

Smart Watches

Smart watches are becoming increasingly popular across all ages of the community. These devices are growing incredibly advanced with the ability to monitor heart rates, falls and heat sensors. Often connected to mobile phones, we could see more lives saved and those in need calling for help without touching a dial pad.

The scenario we often talk about here at APD is your smart watch detecting an irregular heart rate and asking if you need help. The device can then give step by step instructions, much like a control script to help the individual treat the symptoms.

Smart Cities

According to a United Nations study (2012) the population worldwide is moving towards urbanisation – that is to say, living in cities – rather than living in rural locations.  This trend is estimated to continue long in to the future and the world’s urban population is predicted to rise by 72% or 6.3 billion, by 2050. 

The emergency services will see an increase in the volume of incidents requiring a response, not only from people, but also from devices and sensors around smart cities.  There are already trials of microphones that listen for gunshots within cities and chemical sensors near manufacturing plants that flag emergency warnings to control rooms.  The number of applications for such sensors will increase significantly over the next 10 years, as will the need for interacting with static video sources such as CCTV to help proactively monitor cities. We will also see a significant increase in mobile video sources, such as vehicle, drone, smart phone and body worn video within the 999-control room of the future. 

Facial Recognition

Facial recognition is a bit like marmite: people either love or hate the idea.

As we see more facial recognition cameras rolled out, we’re likely to see alerts triggered straight into the control room. The benefits can be seen in airports, concert venues and high threat target areas for terrorist attacks where cameras can monitor for known terrorists or against most-wanted lists.

For example, an alert and photo could be sent straight to an operator to verify the information and dispatch the relevant resources. The integration could see the prevention of major crimes with the results of saving innocent lives. 

  • "Yesterday - people call 999

  • Today - people with devices contact use 999 and digital channels

  • Tomorrow – devices without people use 999 and digital channels”

Social Media Trends

Today, we know that people will often tweet abut or record an incident on their device before contacting the emergency services. We can already monitor certain parts of social media in control room products, such as with our own product, Aspire.

And there’s still more to come. Imagine being able to see trends on a map in the control room and being able to set thresholds to trigger an alert? For example, seeing 5 posts in a certain proximity all using the tag #Accident.

Control room operators can then drill into the detail, look at photos or footage, create an incident and dispatch resources before any direct contact has been made.

This kind of technology is closer then we think and will enable resources to get to scenes quicker, saving lives and resulting in more and quicker suspect arrests. 

Find out how we can help

Our intelligent CRM - known as Aspire - can help your control room gather insights on your contacts. Whenever a member of the public calls, emails or messages your control room, Aspire brings all previous contact details into the record for the call handler. We’d love to show you how it works - just get in touch with us if you’d like to book a demo.