We catch up with Gordon Meldrum QPM, Strategic Policing Advisor for NEC Software Solutions and former Director of the Organised Crime Command and Director of Intelligence for the UK National Crime Agency who retired from formal policing roles after an impressive 30-year policing career.
Obviously one of the big issues to happen since Gordon retired as Director of the Organised Crime Command and Director of Intelligence for the UK National Crime Agency is COVID-19 and the unprecedented strain it has put on emergency services around the world.
With this in mind, emerging technologies are being fast-tracked into use in a bid to compensate for the new demands these agencies are faced with.
That’s exactly why we’ve asked Gordon to review and test as an ex-cop, with an interest in all things control room, the latest control room product launched by NEC, one that we call Stream.
In case you haven’t already met Stream, it does exactly what it says on the tin; it’s a clever live streaming software that gives the control room a direct visual of what is happening on scene.
So how did Gordon get on?
After receiving a personal demo, first-hand on his own mobile phone from an APD developer acting in the role of call handler, Gordon questions whether the process was rehearsed especially for him, or if it actually happens that quickly?
Gordon explains, ”The instant connection between my mobile and the call handler was really quick and automatically happened once I’d clicked the permissions link. This surprised me as I’ve not got any software on my phone – it was literally a text with a link.”
Once Gordon had had a full demo and a chance to further inspect the software, we sat down and asked him some questions…
What problems could Stream solve for control rooms?
Gordon tells us, “The beauty of this software is that it not only helps play a huge part in supporting the control room and frontline officers during the major incidents but also in the day to day, when it can be used for so many small, non-emergency incidents. Actually, that’s where the biggest impact would probably be felt.
In terms of significant events in policing, these are major incidents where you have a lot of people calling from different locations and sometimes calling multiple emergency services Control Rooms. Whether it is police, fire, ambulance or coastguard – everyone has a different take on what response is needed and therefore will ask the operator for different emergency services.
By having multiple calls to one control or multiple control rooms – you start to see a conflicting image of what is actually happening on the ground as everyone interprets what they see differently.
The ability to bring stream into the equation would take away the layers of confusion. Each control room would have their own real time picture which helps them speak to each other in a cohesive way.
Not only can each control room see what’s happening on the ground, but they can start to plan with each other, what response is needed, making sure the right resource is at the right RV point at the right time.’
It’s not always about the big-action emergencies that Stream will be used for – it will be equally effective in more routine calls, the 101 calls about a dangerously parked car or from a tourist who is lost.
Gordon goes on to share an example. “Edinburgh attracts around 4 million tourists each year, many of them descending for the festivals and Edinburgh fringe – that’s a lot of people, from all over the world with the potential to get lost or need emergency assistance. Having the ability to start a live stream with a lost person is incredibly powerful and useful. This is where the built in Google Maps is valuable – someone not familiar with the area, and in Scotland, because control rooms now cover such a wide geographic range of area, it’s useful to the operator as they might not be local to that area either.”
He continues, “take a non attendance incident such as a two car accident – which is a bump between a couple of cars – no injuries, no dispute over who’s at fault it- this is the typical insurance claim and car repair job. The control room decides we’re not attending, which is the right action to take but to give the control room more confidence that they are correct in deciding not to attend, they could do a quick Stream from the scene to confirm this.”
“All of this is helpful to the control room – but it’s the translation features of Stream that have blown me away, so a control room can do all of the previously mentioned…in any language”
What did you really like about Stream?
For me, there are three things I really like about Stream.
Firstly, the images you get from the scene – these take out human errors when giving an account of what’s happening on scene. The public don’t try to be unhelpful but sometimes the stress inhibits their ability to explain what is happening in front of them – but instead, by getting the images streamed live into the control room, this is resolved.
Next up is the translation of text and voice. The ability for the language to be auto suggested to the control room is gold dust.
Certainly in the police, who spend millions on translation services each year, and even then, it’s often clunky and can be a little hit and miss, depending on whether there is someone available to translate at that given time. Stream gets you over that hurdle and is significantly cheaper, too.
As a control room leader, you’d select the most popular languages used in your community and this then instantly translates when hearing or seeing this language. But there is also a drop down on the callers screen, for them to select from a further 80 languages. That’s really powerful. You’ll always have that support, at any time of the day or night as an operator.
Last up is the location service, which really does remove the localised issues of geography. The caller might me comfortable with location – 2223 Main Street, but the control room covers four Main Streets in their force area? So having the pinpoint accuracy of the location helps speed up response times.
A broken down car in the middle of the night, with no idea of where they are – Streaming can be useful in identifying exact location and directing the member of the public to safety and keeping a visual on them until help arrives.
What improvements could you suggest for Stream?
Not necessarily improvements to the technology, but NEC needs to arm the control rooms with a bible of security and ownership of data legislation I think, as this will play a massive part in the decision process of taking Stream as a service.
A small minority of the public may be nervous about sharing data and giving permission to access their devices in such a way – I can almost hear the ‘do you track my phone forever’, ‘do you always listen in’ claims from these people.
And whilst I know the answer is simply – no, it is impossible to access the phone once the session is closed, and the power is with the caller to end that live session, it would be good to have something in detail that helps control room teams if they come across that.
Ultimately, if the caller does not wish to participate in a Stream, they absolutely don’t have to and we must remember that.
My closing statement would be… An image doesn’t lie.
In an emergency, with adrenaline kicking in, the caller can lose focus and is in a heightened state of stress – details and information can be rather vague and incorrect.
But with Stream, it removes the doubt and the need for verbal detail. It shows everything and destresses the situation for both the caller and the handler.
For more information or to book a demo, visit our dedicated page