As the challenges facing public safety communications and emergency response professionals continue to grow, location intelligence technology empowers public safety professionals with the data and tools to make more informed decisions. Geographic information system (GIS) technology has been in use in a variety of public safety applications for many years but relies on the need for a trained GIS expert to provide analysis and answers. Now the options are available for public safety and emergency response organizations to move beyond the traditional GIS mapping and enhance their work using location intelligence solutions on their own.
Location intelligence solutions are comprised of a combination of software, data and expert services that help public safety organizations leverage spatial capabilities to uncover patterns and risks not visible through traditional methods, and all without the need for a GIS expert. Using location intelligence, agencies can implement mapping technology to bring the power of location analysis capabilities to many more areas and bolster efforts during the planning and execution of communications and response tactics.
Before reviewing the numerous ways location intelligence is helping to improve the achievements of public safety professionals, let's take a moment to clarify the differences between these solutions and GIS. GIS is a technical specialty with a steep learning curve and requires a dedicated person or even department with a high level of domain knowledge. On the other hand, location intelligence is standards-based, intuitive, and designed to be usable and adaptable by everyone in the organization for decision making during emergency scenarios and crime analysis. Additional differences include:
- Within the organization, GIS resides in a special department that is called upon when an agency needs answers to location questions. Location intelligence does not require its own department of people. Rather, a location intelligence solution integrates seamlessly into existing applications and IT architecture, making it is usable by everyone who needs it -- when they need it.
- GIS applications create a separate, proprietary and expensive database to store the spatial data. Because location intelligence integrates so well into IT departments, users do not need a separate, special database, only an extension to their existing standard database.
- GIS focuses on offering toolsets with specialized functionality and technical capabilities. Location intelligence offers capabilities that integrate into existing processes, enabling the organization to answer specific questions. For example, with time-based analysis, law enforcement can analyze crime patterns based on time of day, and emergency response can understand emergency vehicle response times based on traffic and time of day.
- With GIS, spatial is considered special; with location intelligence, spatial is not special. Rather, it is a tool that fits into business processes to help solve particular location needs.
- GIS is expert user oriented. Location intelligence is integrated into processes and organizational applications for use by everyday people who only need to use location when appropriate.
In short, location intelligence advances geospatial capabilities into more areas for public safety and emergency response tactics, and delivers valuable information to organizations, helping to protect residents and property in emergency situations. Here are a few examples of public safety organizations currently using location intelligence.
Improved emergency dispatching
In an emergency dispatch center, time is critical and a variety of information is needed at a moment's notice. This includes information on the 911 call, responding unit(s) status, history on the address, notification of any hazards and mapping. Notice that mapping is but one piece of the information required. In situations like this, the mapping component needs to integrate seamlessly with other streams of data and databases. And it needs to be intuitive -- the dispatcher is not a GIS specialist.