Innovation and changeDigital TransformationSaving on software: Making UK policing resources go further

Saving on software: Making UK policing resources go further

Alan Hayward, UK Manager at SEH Technologies shares his views on how pooling IT resources can help police forces to cut costs without reducing services.

From £100 million spent on mobile fingerprinting devices by the Met Police alone, to plans to use AI to save £30 million, technology is set to be a huge priority for policing over the next few years. However, one of the big challenges ahead is how to balance making the most of the advanced capabilities digitalisation offers without the needing to cut back other resources to do so.

There is no doubt that digital transformation comes with a price tag, but approached in the right way that investment can be swiftly recouped and further savings made to be funneled into other areas of policing. Not only this, but with more and more cases relying on digital evidence being collected from computers and mobile devices, investing in the right software is essential. However, it is also the responsibility of IT managers to make sure those resources are used as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Getting the investment right

Data recovery from computers and mobile devices depends on using bespoke, high-value software. These programs are significantly more expensive and are more aggressively protected than the average piece of business software. In almost all cases this happens through USB-based hardware authentication, where a USB dongle needs to be physically plugged into the target machine before the intended program will run.

Although it’s makes sense as a protection medium from the perspective of software licensing providers and has the added benefit of making it easy to identify who’s running the software at any given time, it creates a host of problems when it comes to allowing the police to use the software – flexibility, practicality and crucially cost.

Combatting logistical challenges

With the current model of software protected by USB dongles, the formula for working out the number of licenses needed is simple. The work is conducted in the field and the physical dongle is needed to access the software and so the number of officers using the software is a pretty good estimate of the number of licenses needed to ensure minimal downtime – which comes at a significant cost.

The obvious answer to reducing costs is to share those dongles between staff collecting data, although this is easier said than done. If evidence is being collected on one side of a city and another officer requires the USB dongle needed to use the data recovery software several miles away, the result is wasted time to hand over the dongle – put simply the lack of flexibility in this approach means it isn’t fit for purpose.  Likewise, the dongle approach is also impractical when it comes to available USB ports. As simple as it may sound, many police computers do not have USB ports going spare. The practicalities of then needing to use an authentication dongle to power essential software causes a significant headache.

Making resources go further

So with the combination of logistical and cost problems, can digital transformation be used to find a work around for the problem? The short answer is yes. Digital transformation encompasses a range of technologies from AI and robotics to Cloud Computing and virtualisation – and it is virtualisation that offers an answer the challenges of digital evidence collection.

Rather than passing round authentication dongles like batons in a 4 x 100m relay race, by plugging all dongles into a server they can be virtualised and distributed over the network. Using niche but simple technology, police services can circumvent the problems of flexibility and the need for additional USB ports and most importantly significantly reduce software licensing costs.

By having a bank of virtual software licenses that can be allocated based on need regardless of location. It eliminates the need to pass dongles between colleagues, meaning the police service could even halve the number of licenses needed to complete the work, by being able to allocate licenses as they are needed, rather than needing to consider location. The result is a major cost saving that offers benefits rather than compromise.

Smart investments

With budgets squeezed, when technology offers an option to help pool resources it can not only tackle logistical issues but provide real financial benefits. Investing in cutting-edge technology like AI and robotics would make the police service ‘smarter’, but it’s not the smart investment needed at this stage of its digital transformation.

About the author: Alan Hayward is UK Manager at SEH Technology.

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