The tagline for the iPhone application store – “there’s an app for that” – brags there’s an app for everything. And it’s mostly true, with apps capable of many things, from updating Twitter and Facebook to managing your household finances and finding a good restaurant. Now even military operations can be added to the list.
Raytheon has developed a series of iPhone applications to support military unit situational awareness by allowing soldiers to transmit data and photos over secure communications and call up real time maps to track field operations.
But why should this software be limited to the battlefield? I see great potential for first responders, uniformed patrols, S.W.A.T. teams and surveillance units to increase their capabilities by tapping into the potential of the iPhone, a device many officers already know and use.
Consider this scenario: A 10-officer team is staking out a group of suspects from several locations. Using only their cell phones, the supervisor and team can observe each others’ movements, simultaneously communicate via text message, and access a map of an entire building as suspects move to enter it. By leveraging the social aspect of these new applications, an officer can be part of the force from wherever he or she is located, delivering and receiving real-time data about the team’s position and status while they’re in the field.
In the government sector, use of certain applications is already taking off. Cities like New York and San Francisco are working with developers to create applications to better communicate with citizens about anything from accessing public transit schedules to getting tips on crime.
Law enforcement needs to join the application revolution by driving demand for innovative applications that make us even more effective at our jobs. As mobile technology continues developing and law enforcement becomes comfortable with smaller, more capable devices, applications can become an extraordinary policing tool for anything from crowd control to special enforcement ops.
We can’t allow our satisfaction with the status quo to limit our capabilities – or our imaginations.