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Avon & Somerset Police develop apps with visualised data

19/01/17

Force uses software platform as basis for two-week turnaround for each new operational application

Avon & Somerset Police has begun to use a data visualisation platform to produce a series of applications to support a range of its operations.

Police light on roof of vehicleSince beginning the programme in the summer of last year it has produced about 20 apps and has plans for several more, taking advantage of a development process that it can complete in two weeks.

Sean Price, head of performance for the force, told UKAuthority that it began using the Qlik Sense platform as part of a programme to embed predictive technology across its operations, prompted by a need to maintain its effectiveness in the face of budget cuts.

“It’s a transformation approach we’re doing around business intelligence, predictive analytics and visualisation combined together,” he said. “We’re using the analytics platform to reduce demand, increase effectiveness and efficiency.”

Offender risk

He highlighted the development of an offender risk app, which is available to beat officers and intelligence staff and gives them access to information through a selection of screens. These show what offences they have committed in tabular form and on a map, any trends in the harm they have inflicted, intelligence gaps that need filling, and whether they are wanted for an outstanding offence or having failed to appear in court.

“We’ve found that making the information available in real time can help people in doing things differently and quickly to our benefit,” Price said.

The force has also developed a business command app, which visualises information on live incidents and helps the command and control team make decisions on moving officers.

“We’ve had some good successes in improving our ability to get to incidents in a more timely way,” he said. “Considering police business is tailored to dealing with high end risk all the time, this helps to see and prioritise that risk more effectively.

“The apps are also used by the chief officers in their daily meetings on the key business. Before we had them it was a less transparent and visual process, but now everybody is using them and they are aligning people to common goals.”

Data sources

The apps draw on data from core policing systems such as Storm for command and control and Niche for records management, along with back office systems such as those for duty management and road closures. They also connect to the Airwave emergency communications network.

They are enabled for mobile phones and tablets, but are also widely used on desktops and big screens for meetings.

Others have been developed for operational factors such as officer availability and objectives. In addition, the region’s police and crime commissioner has been equipped with a personal app to monitor governance and how the force is performing in relation to the local police and crime plan.

The platform makes it possible to integrate data from different sources and convert it to visual formats using templates and without the need for scripting or SQL queries. This has facilitated the fast turnaround in their development.

“We’ve had an agile roll out of the applications,” Price said. “We look to develop and get them live in two weeks. A small group of experts will produce them, interfacing with the business to solve the pain points.

“The ease of the development using the software is quite phenomenal.”

Pipeline plans

He added that there are more to come as part of a 12-month programme.

“We have a board that prioritises the development work and have new apps in the pipeline for finance and HR – not the most exciting but better for the purpose than what we have – some for criminal justice and supporting victims.”

Price said that it is currently difficult to quantify savings from the app development, but that Avon & Somerset is seeing some clear benefits from the programme. These include the more efficient use of officers’ time, reducing road collisions by targeting the areas for problem solving, better victim contact and spotting the opportunities for early interventions.

Image: Matty Ring, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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