In 1993, actor Tom Selleck voiced a forward-looking AT&T telecommunications commercial entitled, “You Will.” It featured seemingly futuristic capabilities such as electronically borrowing books “from thousands of miles away,” navigating cars using GPS-supported computer maps, and sending “someone a fax (using a handwriting-enabled tablet computer) from the beach.”
Today, not only have these predictions become a reality, but we take for granted how easily and aggressively our expectations of technology has grown. Just as we reacted with intrigue and anticipation to this old AT&T ad, we should prepare for similar transformations in the not-so-distant future. Today, we are on the cusp of more advances in communications technology that will profoundly improve the services and products available to the public, including law enforcement professionals.
HERE COMES 5G
Currently, the implementation of 5G wireless service is underway. This improvement delivers the speed of a wired broadband network to wireless devices. The term “5G” simply means that this is the fifth version of the wireless transmission standard being deployed, just as 4G was the fourth generation. In fact, many major US cities already have 5G coverage in place, and carriers are busy rolling it out to smaller markets.
The big selling point for 5G is speed. “While 4G tops out at a theoretical 100 megabits per second (Mbps), 5G tops out at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps),” says howtogeek.com. “That means 5G is a hundred times faster than the current 4G technology.”
THE EFFECT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT
5G will allow law enforcement officers (LEOs) to access every aspect of their department’s data resources on their wirelessly-connected smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers.
This effectively eliminates the data access dividing line between the office and the field. LEOs will no longer need to wait for information in the field; they’ll have the same instant access and ability to deliver mission-critical information. 5G services will also make it easier for LEOs to prepare and submit multimedia reports from anywhere, including photos, videos, and completed documentation.
While taking advantage of 5G to help LEOs speed up report filing is undoubtedly good news, most officers would likely agree the real challenge is the time spent preparing paperwork, not filing it. Unfortunately, this isn’t something an improved network speed can address alone.
Instead, LEOs are increasingly implementing voice recognition software to substantially reduce the time it takes to complete paperwork. Experience has shown that dictating police reports using Nuance’s Dragon Law Enforcement software is up to three times faster than typing them. Speech recognition offers up to 99% accuracy in transcribing voice into text, with a reduced risk of typos.
THE EFFECT OF MOVING TO THE CLOUD
Voice recognition already works; it doesn’t need 5G. However, 5G will significantly enhance the capabilities of voice recognition products like Dragon Law Enforcement by making far more law enforcement applications available on the wireless web. This is already evident in the growing number of apps available on AT&T’s FirstNet public safety network.
Currently, most law enforcement agencies host records management, dispatch, and other resource-intensive software on their own servers because these programs have historically been too big (and too security-sensitive) to host on the web.
As technology catches up – like the GPS navigation example from the 1993 ad – advances such as 5G and high-capacity cloud hosting will allow on-premises applications to move into the cloud regardless of size. This will likely drive increases in officer productivity while freeing up time for officers to spend in their community. Additionally, when it comes to deterring hackers, a multinational cloud-based firm would be able to deploy more resources and expertise to address specific security concerns, than an individual police department.
INVESTING IN EFFICIENCY
To help support the move of mission-critical systems to the cloud, law enforcement customers are taking advantage of the more-affordable “Software as a Service” (SaaS) model.
Under SaaS, a police department pays a predictable monthly fee to use these services. In return, the cloud-based hosting companies assume the role of managing everything the service entails – from data centers, including security, maintenance, and upgrades to training and staffing human resources.
Cloud-based systems offer LEOs improved data access and the ability to file reports from the field. Traditional expenses associated with such tasks essentially vanish from the local law enforcement agency’s budget, along with large expenditures for additional IT equipment, software, and facilities.
It’s a win-win situation.
The global build-out of 5G is moving forward fairly quickly, but the migration of major law enforcement systems from departmental servers to the cloud and SaaS is still in the early stages.
Based on the promise of efficiency and improved performance, we expect to see a greater reliance on cloud-based systems in the near future. As 5G becomes more broadly available, networks will be able to handle higher demands and solutions such as time-saving voice recognition will become that much more valuable.
Collectively, these advancements will continue to reduce the administrative burdens on law enforcement officers and allow them to focus more on their work – and less on their paperwork.
When technology consumers understand the potential, they inherently expect the performance to follow. Remember, just like Tom Select’s earlier technology narrative – it’s not a matter of if ‘You could,’ it’s a question of when ‘You will.’