Another problem Hundstad notes is that there are countless CAD (computer aided dispatch) and RMS (records management system) vendors in this country alone. "So clearly one application does not fit all needs," he says. "We've worked with one software vendor that has developed the tools to read and write to anyone's database." Hundstad says that's what's ahead in the not-so-distant future in the world of mobile data.What else is on tap?
What's up the road for MDTs and laptops used in patrol vehicles? Hundstad says to expect high demand for better streaming video.
Other innovations may include riffs off mobile data innovations such as the one used by the City of Santa Monica. Safe Egilmez, a crime analyst for the Santa Monica Police Department, says the city is using a mobile data collection system developed by Austin, Texas-based Xplore Technologies to identify and locate graffiti. While city crews handle the clean-up, the data is transmitted to Egilmez so he can use the intelligence to track area gangs and often see who — or what — they are targeting. "Until now, the police department didn't track graffiti," Egilmez says. But the department has found the technology — which operates off Wi-Fi — very useful.
Another California agency, the San Jose Police Department, has joined the list of criminal justice agencies supporting so-called "e-ticketing" of traffic violators.
The San Jose system works like this: Officers enter the citation on the handheld device, then issue a citation to the violator. The citing officer uploads the citations to the central server.
"This data is processed, updates the current records database and after a 48-hour wait period, they are electronically sent to the Santa Clara court system," says a spokesperson for the company that manufactures the device, TicketWorks by 3i Infotech of Edison, New Jersey.
Eventually 600 San Jose patrol officers will be equipped with the devices, which also capture information in the field, including fingerprints and photographs for not only citations, but accident and other reports. The big plus for San Jose has been the reduction in the number of man-hours and personnel required to input data into the system. Since the information bypasses the additional bureaucratic layer, San Jose has been able to reduce costs associated with citations and, claims the company spokesman, boost accuracy.
Of course, e-citations, graffiti abasement and streaming video are simply examples of the kinds of emerging uses for patrol-based MDTs and laptops. With rapid advances in the field, the sky is literally the limit. For agencies making the move to MDTs or mobile laptops, the big challenges will be integrating upgrades as they are introduced — the same problem that plagues every computer user.
Tomorrow promises to be an exciting, demanding time for agencies that are hooked into the latest technology as long as they are willing to stay even with the ever-changing parameters of mobile technology.
Carole Moore has served in patrol, forensics, crime prevention and criminal investigations, and has extensive training in many law enforcement disciplines.