South Australia Police (SAPOL) is piloting Samsung smartphones with 300 frontline officers under its mobile workforce transformation program, fine-tuning the device setup and apps ahead of a broader rollout.
Executive director of information systems and technology, Hamish Cameron, told the iTnews Podcast that the pilot represents phase one of the $35 million mobility program that was first unveiled back in 2021.
The plan is to equip 6000 staff - including 5000 sworn officers - with smartphones.
At present, only some police vehicles have laptops or ruggedised tablets, and these are shared by multiple officers.
Back in 2021, the mobile workforce transformation program was still in its formative stages.
Much has changed in the following two years, including now the live pilot with 300 sworn officers.
Reflecting on the work that’s been undertaken to reach this point, Cameron noted that - as with many large technology programs - “it’s never as simple as you’re able to describe” in the business plan.
“There was a lot of work in planning that was required for us to be able to get to the point where we could deliver a functional pilot,” he said.
“I’d love to be further down the track than where we are, but we have to be very, very careful about how we deploy applications and information to portable devices.”
The pilot device is a Samsung Galaxy S22 - one of two able to meet a PROTECTED level of security, based on federal government guidelines.
So far, through the devices, frontline police can access internal intelligence briefings for their particular district or area; issue electronic expiation notices - in other words, fines; and access some digital forms and workflows out in the field that eliminate the need to file paperwork back at an office.
Cameron noted that this isn’t the complete set of capabilities that the devices will ultimately carry; more apps and functions are being added throughout the pilot period.
“I think to begin with, and especially with our phase one pilot, we are just trying to get the capability into the hands of the frontline. We haven't concluded rolling out all the different capabilities for phase one,” he said.
“In the next couple of months we'll be deploying computer aided dispatch, providing the ability for taskings at an officer level as well as the ability for our communication centre to be able to see the officer on a map at any particular time, which obviously has some good benefits for officer safety.
“We'll also be deploying an amalgamated search function, which means that [frontline officers are] able to confirm someone's identity across both our internal information systems as well as the national information systems.”
Primarily out of cyber security-related concerns, Cameron said that the smartphones are otherwise “locked down” and only able to process data via the approved “organisational applications and policies.”
“I know other jurisdictions have a different model to that, but at this stage, that's what we're doing,” he said.
Outside of adding new apps and functions to the devices, Cameron said there’s a parallel stream of work around user experience, which is trying to ensure consistency and simplicity in what is added to the devices.
“You don't want a significant number of different ‘look-and-feel’ applications, having to make the staff member really think about what application they need to use in what particular context,” he said.
“So there is a lot of consideration being given to how we design and deliver a seamless experience.
“In some cases, that may not be that easy to do, because of some legacy applications we have. But there are some fairly novel ways where you can present information and also capture information without needing to expose some of that legacy interface.
“That's a long way of saying in the interim, we’re getting the capability out there, however we can, but we're also working hard and in parallel to deliver a longer term, more seamless outcome.”
At the end of the live pilot, SAPOL intends to approach the market for the supply of the remainder of the smartphones needed to complete the mobile workforce transformation.
Although the pilot uses the Samsung devices, this is not indicative of the device direction that the broader rollout might take.
“Our next phase for the transformation is a much broader rollout,” Cameron said.
“We'll be tapping into the market in the not too distant future to shape that up and get into a faster delivery - in the order of thousands of phones over the next period of time.”
He added: “I won't go into the specifics in terms of how many phones by when, because that's still under discussion.
“But I suspect by the end of this year, we'll have a really clear picture of how long it will take us to deliver on the entire program.