London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), popularly
known as the Met and headquartered in New Scotland
Yard, is one of the world’s oldest police forces and
responsible for protecting one of the world’s largest
cities. Like many metropolitan police forces, the MPS
faces new challenges.
“Our vision is to make London the safest major city in the world,” writes Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens in a foreword to “Towards the safest city – Delivering policing for Londoners”, a presentation of a three-year program for the years 2002 to 2005 published by the Metropolitan Police Authority.
“Much has changed within the Metropolitan
Police Service, and we have made significant
progress on our agenda for action. Facing
new challenges with new thinking, we have
provided visible reassurance to Londoners in
the height of an increased terrorist threat and
are reducing street crime by redirecting
resources,” continues Sir John Stevens.
New command and control functions
An important part of the program is the C3i (Command, Control, Communications and Information) project. This is the largest and most radical project that the MPS has ever undertaken. It aims to maximize the effective use of police and essential support staff time and resources and will completely replace the MPS’s command and control functions with a new call handling system. Key objectives of the C3i project are to provide an efficient and effective telephone- handling service, to ensure that police deployments are appropriate and effectively prioritized and to free police resources so that they can be concentrated on policing priorities.
Metropolitan London consists of 32 boroughs policed by the MPS and each served by a Borough Operational Command Unit. For a city with a population of 7.2 million that makes more than two million emergency calls each year, this is an increasingly inefficient command and control structure. One of the most important C3i initiatives is therefore to centralize call handling to three new centers that will provide emergency and non-emergency call handling and dispatch functions.
UK Mobitex operator Transcomm UK Ltd and APD Communications Ltd., a mobile IT solutions provider to the emergency services, public sector and service management markets, developed applications within the C3i framework to support mobile access to remote databases, automatic vehicle location and incident dispatch and update. APD was responsible for the systems architecture, applications and gateway development, third-party integration, installation and support. As the UK Mobitex operator, Transcomm’s role was network service provisioning within the context of the Home Office Framework Agreement (HOFA), including providing access to the Police National Computer (PNC) system, identifying the location of police vehicles and secure messaging for computer aided dispatch and reporting in realtime.
“The mobile data applications are designed to help the officer do the job with minimal training,” says Tony Waddington, divisional sales manager at APD Communications. “The APD applications for police vehicles are therefore based on simple touch-screen navigation and focused on necessary information only, thus making the screens easy to read and the application easy to use.”
In the solution developed for the MPS, however, the mobile data terminals installed in the vehicles to provide real-time data access via the Transcomm Network and the applications used by police officers are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Equipment installed in the vehicle includes a touch-screen, an onboard computer, APD's Inca GPS controller and a radio modem. An agent-based application in the vehicle implements interfaces linking mobile police officers to the PNC and other intelligent databases, command and control functions in the command unit, status and text messaging services and an AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) system. The back-end system includes gateways developed by APD that provide access to these networks and services.
For these and other reasons, more and more public authorities around the world are discovering that wireless data communications are an indispensable tool. A completely separate, dataonly network provides a highly desirable redundancy in communications while adding new capabilities for coordinating and efficiently deploying resources.
In addition to the GPS receiver, the Inca GPS controller contains a DSP processor and onboard processing that not only tracks the vehicle’s location in real time and relays this information back to the control center, but also records vehicle details and driving history, thus providing black-box functionality for accident investigation. Police supervisors are naturally able to track the vehicle’s locations at all times without driver intervention.
Officers in their vehicles see only a touch
screen with clearly labeled buttons and the minimum
amount of information relevant for the
task at hand is displayed at any one time. There
are screens for incident dispatch and update,
activity-based reporting and database queries, for example. A map is available at all times to show the vehicle’s current location or the location
of an address to which the vehicle has
been dispatched. When data is to be entered
by the officer, a Qwerty keyboard is displayed
on the screen, along with the fields in which
data will be entered.
Perfect fit for London policing
“Providing our officers with mobile access to the PNC allows them to obtain information on stolen cars, wanted and missing persons, previous convictions and bail conditions at the touch of a button,” explains Paul Glaister, communications program manager at the MPS. “The nature of police work in the UK requires a completely reliable solution to transfer missioncritical data to officers on patrol. By transferring information in data format rather than by voice over radio, there is less room for error and misunderstanding. As an always-on wireless data network which offers fast, reliable and secure transfer of information, without any contention with voice traffic, the Transcomm Network is the perfect fit for our vision of the future of London policing.”
The PNC service operating over the Transcomm Network provides three core applications: PNC vehicle inquiries, PNC name inquiries and secure messaging. The data contained in the PNC databases provides information on vehicle licensing, theft reports and personal details, including description, convictions, custodial history, details of offences and methods and disqualified driver records. The service, which was developed in cooperation with Transcomm and APD, eliminates systems integration work by giving police forces direct access to the PNC without having to pass through local force systems.
The simply packaged service is available as an option under HOFA. It is approved as a national service by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Information Technology Organisation and links to a central gateway at the Police Hendon Data Center. The gateway consists of a PNC interface connected locally to the Police National Network and an intelligent wireless data interface linked to the Transcomm Network, allowing the PNC to be accessed from mobile or portable data terminals from any location in the country within radio coverage of the Transcomm Network. Currently Transcomm’s services are used by 26 police forces across the UK with very positive results.
“We are very pleased to be chosen by the Metropolitan Police Service for this visionary project,” comments Andrew Carver, chief executive officer of Transcomm. “C3I clearly demonstrates the benefits of using wireless data services to optimize valuable police resources. By employing a mobile data solution, the MPS supervisors are no longer restricted to a control room or desk as they can now receive information on the move, enabling them to supervise an incident away from the scene and to deliver a more effective service to the public regardless of where they may be. The Transcomm Network continues to be chosen above all others when the highest levels of service are required in demanding and critical environments. More than 55 percent of the police forces in England and Wales rely on the Transcomm Network for their mobile data needs, confirming our position as the network of choice for mission-critical data transfer.”
The Inca AVL tracking and management
solution and the PNC service developed by
APD and Transcomm are now being deployed
throughout London and are having a major
impact on the C3i project.