Protecting your software investment

     Public safety software has become a critical component of police work. It is a vital tool to rapidly communicate, store and transfer law enforcement information. Public safety applications like computer aided dispatch (CAD), records management (RMS), and mobile computing allow law enforcement agencies to increase safety, improve response times, and conduct more successful investigations. As law enforcement needs change with advances in wireless technology data sharing requirements and online capabilities, public safety solutions have become more important than ever.

     Most of us do not think about the thousands of lines of code that make up the framework of the software we rely on every day. And why should we? We never see the foundation of our public safety software, yet it plays a vital role in the functionality and future of our solutions. All of the coding behind our software is important to protect the long-term investment we make in these solutions.

Understanding the framework behind your software

     The foundation of your public safety software determines whether or not your solutions will be easy-to-use and maintain, which will keep training and administration costs low. The right framework can also enable a seamless flow of information through applications and interoperability with third-party solutions to guarantee times savings and information accuracy. Furthermore, as law enforcement needs evolve, the technology behind your software will determine whether or not it can grow and provide additional future functionality.

     One example is a recent emphasis on community policing that has lead to a stronger need for wireless access to information for officers on patrol. This need has caused some advanced software providers to drastically enhance mobile software capabilities. Now, officers on patrol can send and receive information, search NCIC and Records, and complete and submit reports from their vehicles through advanced wireless mobile computing.

     The ever-growing demands of law enforcement can pose a problem for some software vendors and ultimately your law enforcement agency, if your solutions are not built on a framework that is flexible and designed to easily grow and adapt. Because of this, some leading public safety software vendors, are relying on the trusted Microsoft.NET platform from the world's industry leader.

The Microsoft.NET framework

     Developed by Microsoft, the Microsoft.NET framework provides a flexible foundation and a set of standards that allows software developers to focus on building functionality instead of writing code for basic software groundwork like buttons, windows, workflows, etc. The .NET framework also provides pre-coded solutions including user interfaces, data access, database connectivity, security, network communications, and more for software developers.

     Features of the Microsoft.NET framework include Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation and Windows CardSpace. These robust components offer developers more options than solutions without the .NET framework to create a significantly enhanced user experience, added communication between applications, powerful automation and secure Web capabilities.

     Public safety software providers that partner with Microsoft can use the .NET framework with all of its built-in features and combine it with their own coding to create stronger CAD, RMS and mobile computing applications.

     Developing software in this manner creates much more flexibility for developers and removes necessary but time-consuming coding for the software groundwork. The enhanced interoperability available in the .NET framework also allows public safety software providers to more easily integrate additional tools, such as geographic information systems (GIS) into their solutions.

     New World Systems and other public safety providers that leverage the Microsoft.NET framework take advantage of a foundation developed by a proven industry leader to increase the speed that they need to develop high quality solutions. By utilizing the .NET framework's built-in coding for complicated processes, like workflow and interoperability, public safety software providers can continue to build onto their CAD, RMS and mobile software without having to rewrite or manipulate complicated functionality. This saves a significant amount of time during development, and ensures updates and additional software will not disrupt functionality from previously installed versions.

     Overall, solutions developed on the .NET framework are easier to build, manage, add to and integrate with other applications, and these benefits transfer to the end-user — your agency.

Technology to meet demands

     Today, interoperability between agencies and public safety answer points (PSAPs) is critical to law enforcement and homeland security. The ability to securely transmit information across jurisdiction lines, access data from many regional databases, and respond to wireless or text communication from citizens, has brought about many advances in public safety software, including Next Generation 911 and CAD-to-CAD transfer capabilities. As more agencies require these technologies, public safety software providers are turning to the Microsoft.NET framework for the tools to easily and seamlessly integrate their solutions with others.

     For many agencies, interoperability between applications also saves time and improves efficiency by removing redundant data entry and cutting down on paperwork. Public safety software built on the Microsoft.NET framework is designed to integrate with common applications an agency uses every day, especially Microsoft Office, allowing more options for printing, saving and editing. And because of the growing popularity of the .NET framework, these public safety solutions also integrate with hundreds of future applications, protecting agencies' software investment for many years.

     Online reporting for citizens, another growing trend in law enforcement, places pressure on agencies to provide an avenue for citizens to access crime information and statistics online. Solutions developed on the .NET framework are Web-based and utilize built-in features that enable software providers to offer more online options.

     As more agencies place an emphasis on community policing to prevent crime, more public safety software providers have increased wireless communication capabilities and access to information for officers on patrol. Equally important in keeping officers in the field is the ability to electronically complete and submit field-based reports.

     By utilizing the .NET framework, companies can leverage Windows Workflow Foundation to improve the movement of data throughout applications. This provides powerful and sequential workflows for better field-based reporting capabilities.

     The company's Microsoft.NET mobile computing solution allows the completion and electronic submittal of reports from the field. The workflow tools in the .NET framework automatically route the electronically submitted field-based reports to the appropriate people for approval, keep track of each edit or version, and ultimately send the data from the report to be merged into the agency's RMS.

     Without built-in tools like a rules engine, tracking, transaction management and more from the .NET framework, public safety software vendors would need to develop this workflow on their own, a largely time-consuming, expensive and complicated process that typically results in brittle and inflexible solutions.

More benefits of the .NET framework

     One of the most noticeable benefits of public safety software solutions built on the Microsoft.NET framework is the better visual experience and user-friendly look of the software applications. Solutions built on the .NET framework are Web-based and offer familiar Microsoft Windows functionality so they often appear less daunting to employees. Nearly everyone today is familiar with Windows functionality, like drop-down menus, the ability to right-click, drag-and-drop and more. Many agencies prefer .NET solutions because they are easier to use and require less training for new employees.

     It makes more sense for agencies to invest in new solutions, rather than spend significant time and money to maintain older software. Microsoft solutions, like the .NET framework, are designed to be easier and less costly to maintain. It is also easier to find staff trained to administer Microsoft solutions more than any other platform available today. There are large user communities for Microsoft and plenty of helpful resources for administrators. And since most other applications in use at agencies are typically Microsoft-based, agencies are able to keep a smaller, more highly-focused IT staff.

     The hardware for Microsoft-based solutions is often less costly to purchase and maintain. The Microsoft.NET platform utilizes the widely popular Microsoft SQL Server database, like many other everyday applications. This makes .NET applications ideal for agencies interested in platform consolidation.

     Microsoft.NET applications are also easily updated because they are designed to take advantage of remote software deployment. Instead of installing applications and updates on each individual computer, software can be pushed through from the client-server. This saves significant time for law enforcement agencies because individual workstations automatically check the server for updates and download them without disrupting users. Microsoft.NET applications also have built-in features that ensure updates and new installations do not interfere with previously installed software.

     For agencies worried about information security, .NET applications may be the answer. The design of the Microsoft.NET framework is meant to address many common software security concerns. By choosing to develop solutions using the Microsoft-provided framework, public safety software providers leverage many valuable built-in tools including a proven security model.

Protecting your investment

     These benefits, and many more, of the .NET framework demonstrate how the foundation of your public safety software determines the flexibility, stability and future of your mission critical solutions. Of course, with all of the technology available today, the Microsoft.NET foundation is not the only software platform to choose from. When selecting new public safety software, there are many solutions built on several different development frameworks, including older mainframe systems and Java open source frameworks.

     Understanding your agency's needs and matching them to the features and known benefits of the software options you are faced with will lead your agency to the right technology. For agencies seeking a state-of-the-art, user-friendly solution that is reliable, scalable, and provides seamless integration to other applications — the Microsoft.NET platform may very well be the best option.

     Technology in law enforcement is constantly advancing, especially as public safety software solutions become even more critical to safety and homeland security efforts. The solution you select will need to work for you for 10 to 15 years. Make sure the investment you make today will continue to grow and develop as technology evolves — without a high cost to you.

     Sarah Bajek is the Marketing Specialist at New World Systems. She is responsible for researching and communicating about new public safety industry trends, as well as managing the public relations of the Company. New World Systems is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, committed to providing integrated public safety solutions for more than 26 years.