While I was over at BlackBerry World last month one of the things that excited me the most was the BlackBerry powered police cruiser (I have a slight police car fetish!). Constable Ken Koke is responsible for showcasing the vehicle as well as using it as his patrol car when keeping the streets of Chatham-Kent free from crime. As well as being a thoroughly nice chap, Ken is also a huge BlackBerry fan, so I decided that rather than waste his valuable time at BlackBerry World I would send him over some BlackBerry related questions to get his thoughts on using not only the BlackBerry smartphone, but also the BlackBerry PlayBook which is integrated into the police cruiser.
The answers have arrive and it makes for a great read -- so settle down with a drink, put your feet up and enjoy what Ken has to say on the BlackBerry solution and how his role as a police officer benefits from it.
James: Can you tell us a little about your day to day role in the Police service?
Ken: Chatham-Kent Police Service patrols an area of 2,400 square kilometres, and has approximately 170 front line officers. In October of 2008, Chatham-Kent Police deployed 15 BlackBerry smartphones paired up with BlackBerry smart card readers, to a test group of 15 front-line officers. This was a first for Chatham-Kent Police in having mobile data, now in the palm of our hands. The functionality grew from basic query capacity, on our records management system, to over a dozen custom made applications covering everyting from having the ability to query licence plates, to vehicle inspection reports. Working in one of the more rural parts of our area, having immediate access to our secure data has enabled me to be more efficient in my job, eliminating the need to run back to the office for so many things.
James: You are clearly a big fan of using a BlackBerry. How long on a professional level have you used a BlackBerry smartphone and how did it change the way you performed as a Police Officer?
Ken: I am a longtime fan and user of BlackBerry. Having a background in technology, my role at Chatham-Kent Police has evolved from being a basic test pilot, to assisting in the deployment of the rest of the BlackBerrys to my felow officers. I am often asked to liase between front line officers and the software developers supplying ideas for new applications that we require. The ideas get passed up the chain of command and if approved by administration, the applications become a reality, and in use very quickly. The question is often asked, what else can we do on the BlackBerry that can serve as an improvement to our current business practices. My first issued BlackBerry was a Curve 8300. This was quite a leap from my personal BlackBerry Pearl. The full querty keyboard changed everything for me. I could create a full report on my BlackBerry and not have to return to the station. Our Chief's vision of keeping the officers on the streets of Chatham-Kent was becoming more of a reality every day. I saw on the first day the potential of this platform as a mobile data solution for law enforcement, and am very pleased on how far we have come and how many apps have been created for us.
James: We have seen you showcasing the PlayBook cruiser. When and why did the Chatham-Kent Police Service decide this was the future of mobile policing?
Ken: The PlayBook is the extension of the successful BlackBerry Project at Chatham-Kent Police. We successfully deployed about 170 BlackBerry's to our front-line officers, with our records management software now in the officer's hands, we truly have mobile data. The only request that came out of that deployment was the need for a keyboard and a larger screen. We tested a "NetBook" type device that provided the officers an in-car screen and keyboard, as there were no tablets at the time. A few years later PlayBook was introduced and we knew this was the solution for us. We secured some early access to keyboards and PlayBook mounts, we were able to provide feedback to the software developers at Mobile Innovations, and the folks at D&R Electronics to get us the next level of in-car solution. With the release of OS2 and Fusion and Balance, I.T. is now able to plan the upfit of the next eight "PlayBook Cruisers" This is the solution that we showcased at BlackBerry World.
James: Have any 'bad guys' commented on the PlayBook while taking a ride in the back seat?
Ken: The only comments I get is how cool it looks and that they have never seen a Police cruiser like this one. On the other hand we have had requests from other Police agancies to come see what we have here, to see how we use it, and even some ride-alongs to see the great potential of this platform for law enforcement. Chatham-Kent Police Service has been well represented in the news, both radio and print, blogs and twitter. We will be have our E-Ticket solution working on the streets shortly.
James: How does the combination of the BlackBerry smartphone and PlayBook make a difference to your working day?
Ken: The BlackBerry and PlayBook combination gives me a heads-up solution in the cruiser. Being able to look outside, while in the cruiser comes down to one thing, officer safety. I am now more aware of what is going on around my police cruiser.
James: What are the main (most used) applications that you use to make your job more productive?
Ken: Our Niche RMS application that was custom made for our service, along with Beat Blog, which is a one stop shop for information that I may have to retrieve without having to go back to the station. GPS tracking of the BlackBerry provides the next layer of officer safety in such a large patrol area. As I mentioned earlier, we are piloting an E-Ticket solution (which we showcased at BlackBerr World). Presently tickets are written by hand, press hard, make four copies. With our pilot of automating that process, we will have less data entry errors and less time at the side of the road.
James: Are all the apps you use on the PlayBook compatible with BlackBerry 7 or is QNX way ahead in terms of technology in your opinion?
Ken: We are fortunate that all the apps we use are custom made for us by Mobile Innovations. From the MIdicatation app where I can use my BlackBerry to dicate a report and receive the voice dication back, moments later, in a fully articulated email. At this time I can do any last minute modifications in-car, on the PlayBook and keyboard, then send my report off to be added to the system. The apps that were made for us and demonstrated at BlackBerry World are all OS6 and OS7 apps that we now have on our PlayBook. I was able to see our apps put on the Dev10 Alpha device the same day it was released.
James: What did you have for lunch?
Ken: I skipped lunch today actually... don't tell my wife.
James: Security is paramount with government agencies. What do you think sets RIM apart from its competitors?
Ken: BlackBerry is the only wireless handheld device approved for RMS and CPIC access in Canada. With the out of box two-factor authentication and FIPS 140-2, the data moves to our apps in an encrypted MDS tunnel. Security is KEY. I have been involved with technology all my life. I have pretty well seen it all. The basic tennants of what I get out of BlackBerry for my family (all BlackBerry users, even my parents) and what I get out of BlackBerry for my job hasn't changed. I get a reliable, safe, secure, efficient mobile data use that has become part of me. My daily postings on BBM are intended to share with my family and friends new and creative ways to enjoy their BlackBerry. I see where RIM is going with its devices and I am excited. I am eagerly looking forward to the last quarter of 2012.
James: With Blackberry sales on the decline in North America are you confident that RIM's plans with BlackBerry 10 are going to get them back where they were?
Ken: As I mentioned earlier, I have been involved in technology all my life. I realize that technology comes in waves, with the market judging what is the hottest item today. Most of my friends at the end of their mobile contracts are holding out for BB10. I am confident, as are my friends and family, that BlackBerry 10 devices will be a game changer for the market.
James: If you were not in law enforcement would you still use a BlackBerry and if so why?
Ken: I will always use BlackBerry. The efficient use of data, push email, choice of devices from Curve to Bold to all touch, the famous BlackBerry keyboard, BlackBerry Messenger, plus a most impressive tablet, are all what keep me, along with my family, my parents and a lot of my friends using BlackBerry products. We are all looking forward to BlackBerry 10's arrival.
Many thanks Ken! You are a true CrackBerry addict. And also thanks for doing a great job keeping the people of your city safe.