What is Public Safety Mobility?

Mobility touches our lives every day, including apps we use to chat with friends, pay for lunch, and order gifts. It makes sense for this same technology to be accessible to first responders who save lives.

Duane Kietzman, Tyler’s New World Mobility product owner, answers common questions about the use of technology that empowers first responders for safer communities:

Duane Kietzman, New World Mobility product owner

What do the terms “mobile” and “mobility” mean when it comes to public safety?

The way I look at it, mobile is the suite of applications that empower mobility. That means mobile is the connection of, for example, the computer aided dispatch (CAD) technology used by dispatch in a communication center to the mobile CAD and reporting solutions used by first responders in the field.

We’ve had mobile products on laptops in police cars and fire engines since the mid-1990s, but technology has grown exponentially since then. Today, almost everyone uses a smartphone or tablet in their day-to-day lives. They expect to be able to use this same technology in their professional lives as well, which is where mobility comes in. Mobility takes the power of public safety software solutions used by law enforcement, firefighters, and dispatchers and puts it in their pocket on a smartphone or tablet, or on their wrist on a watch. It means they’re always connected even when they’re away from their mobile data terminal in the police car or fire engine.

What changes in technology made it clear that mobility was needed in public safety?

Smartphones have taken over everything that we do. It's a business and consumer tool all in one. Today in the world of public safety, newer employees and those who grew up with technology expect to be able to do some component of their jobs on a smartphone or tablet.

I've actually heard a first responder say, “I can buy anything I want on Amazon and have it delivered to my house in two hours, but dispatch and other first responders can't see where I am on a map if I'm not in my car?” That's the type of expectations in the industry.

For the younger generation, mobility is a need-to-have capability. They don't know anything different. What's really interesting is that the youngest generation coming into public safety today isn't even that familiar with a Windows-based laptop. They're using smartphones and tablets. This trend is only going to continue as new recruits enter the workforce and current public safety personnel continues to move up the ranks.

What types of devices are mobility solutions compatible with?

It's important that mobility solutions work on devices that agencies and departments want to use. That means smartphones, Surfaces, laptops, and wearables, such as a smartwatch. Basically, with the expectation of having this technology, it's important to ensure that products are available on the devices used by public safety professionals.

How does mobility help extend the power of public safety’s software solutions?

Mobility solutions bring all parts of the back office to the officer or fire crew member no matter where they are. This means an officer could be eating lunch and decide to view where someone else is located or what's happening on a particular call for service. They have access to all the information that they could need or want regarding a call for service or fire emergency. Mobility helps empower users to perform work on their own – they don't have to radio or call in to dispatch or a records department to gather information. The details they need are right at their fingertips.

Mobility products allow people to do what they're good at themselves without relying on an intermediary.

How do mobility solutions help meet the public’s expectations?

In a community where first responders have this capability, residents immediately benefit from the efficiency it provides. First responders have the information that's relevant to them when they need to see it. For instance, the app will deliver the most important information to the user as it is needed, such as directions for the driver or preplanning documents for the firefighters. And that's for every user in every role.

When fire crews arrive on the scene, they already know what structures are involved, what hazardous materials are present, they have any access codes they need, and they know exactly where fire hydrants are located. While this is information that is historically provided by mobile data terminals in a fire engine, that information is typically only provided to the captain and engineer. They share this information with the crew, but it's not the same as equipping each crew member - including the battalion chief and volunteer firefighters who aren't in the same rig – with the mission critical data that they need for their roles. By accessing this information while in transit to an emergency, all members of a crew are more informed when they arrive on the scene. That means they're able to tackle the situation almost instantly upon arrival, so they can start saving lives and dealing with the emergency at hand.

From the law enforcement side of things, mobility helps ensure the officers are always connected. Officers are typically disconnected when they step out of their police cruisers, as all the information they have on their MDTs is back in the vehicle; they're on their own. With the power of mobility on a smartphone, watch, or tablet, the officer can exit his or her vehicle and stay connected with dispatch and other officers. This lends itself to better safety for the officer and keeps the officer up to date on the situation. He or she will continue to have real-time data from CAD and will provide on-the-scene updates to dispatch and other officers.

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