High-speed wireless LAN Toronto cops’ new partner

The Toronto Police Service has taken another step forward in the implementation of a records management system that will make it easier to nab criminals while on the road, simplify the paperwork burden and save millions of dollars, all in one fell swoop.

“”The police will be able to do everything

they do in their jobs now but they will be able to do the paperwork electronically in-car,”” explains Chris Pentleton, architect for the eCOPS (enterprise case and occurrence processing system) project.

Using a wireless gateway from IBM Corp., rather than calling in over the computer-aided dispatch 911 system, police will be able to execute warrants online, do sophisticated searches on the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database, and look up pending cases “”everything they can do in the station, albeit a little more slowly.”” The system has been in development for two years.

According to Chris Johnson, wireless services executive with IBM Global Services in Vancouver, the project is unique because it enables patrol cars to seamlessly roam between lower-speed but wider-reaching radio networks, public networks for example, and strategically placed high-speed local-area wireless networks.

That means once officers pull up outside of their precincts, they automatically hop onto the precinct’s high-speed LAN, which typically runs at anywhere from 10 to 100 Mbps. Large data files such as mug shots they have requested while on the slower (typically slower than 56 Kbps) wide-area network can be queued and held until the patrol cars are within reach of their precinct’s LAN, says Johnson.

“”The real benefit is that their police dispatch network is priority No. 1,”” he says. “”They can’t have anything bogging it down. They can’t put large amounts of data on it that would clog it up.””

There are now 450 cruisers outfitted with Panasonic-hardened laptops.

The unified search component of the project, which was scheduled to be in place by the end of 2001, has already been implemented, says Pentleton.

“”We wanted to put that on the mobile network but given the current capacity of the Motorola network we’re going to probably postpone that until we look at the public networks,”” says Pentleton. “”When you start adding new software and Web-based applications, it doesn’t take much to use up capacity.””

The system is expected to save the force US$2.9 million a year through elimination of redundant manual tasks, say Pentleton. “”Where now you create an occurrence you would have to go to another system and re-enter the occurrence. We’re going to be doing that manually so when an officer creates an occurrence, we will send it to CPIC so then it will be available

throughout Canada.””

As well, he adds, “”Right now the warrants creation process is fairly manually intensive.””

Because wireless is still considerably slower than landline connections, he says, applications were designed to work in disconnected mode.

“”When things are transmitted to the server officers don’t have to wait for something to happen,”” says Pentleton. “”They can create the occurrence locally, say ‘publish’ and do something else while we’re sending it to the server.””

To ensure the security of wireless transmissions, Pentleton says there are two authentications: one for the basic core, which is the non-wireless gateway or back-end part, and another authentication that is performed by the wireless gateway. “”Then the application authentication is on top of that so there are several layers of security we’ve developed. We think we’ve covered most of the avenues but we’re always looking at it.””

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