Q&A: How is the Military Standardizing Tech for Police and Communications?
For military and civilian agencies, situational awareness, on-site communication and regulated data storage are integral to the safety and success of missions and operations. With the increased adoption of of Android Tactical Assault Kits (ATAK) and the introduction of the Mobile Federal Law Enforcement Enterprise Equipment Technology Standardization (MFLEETS) program, government organizations are looking to technology vendors to equip them with the tools necessary to meet military demands.
To dig deeper into the technology solutions and the federal regulations, we spoke with Account Manager Julie McCabe (JM), Strategic Account Manager Jeff Henderson (JH) and National Sales Manager Scott Heckman (SH). Here’s what they had to say:
On the battlefield, communication is important. What are field teams using to enable better situational awareness?
JH: ATAK is a ground situational awareness tool that can be deployed on both Android and Windows devices to manage people on the battlefield and in emergency response scenarios. In these situations, being able to effectively and quickly see and communicate with personnel in the field, without relying on a lot of other equipment, can be extremely helpful.
How was battlefield communication conducted before ATAK solutions were readily available? What sets these solutions apart?
JH: Traditionally, people communicated with expensive radios, which are bulky pieces of hardware to carry around, considering they only provide audio. With ATAK solutions, people are able to relay their position back to a team leader or chain of command to determine the person’s location. The solution can also use the map to see where a person is in relation to other soldiers and emergency responders.
To this point, most ATAK deployments have been done using consumer-grade Android devices that require some extra pieces, like rugged casing and other accessories, to truly be ready for field conditions. End users appreciate the value of a durable solution that’s ready to use right out of the box. So, we took the government-provided application and put it on our rugged Android handheld, creating a very effective solution already employed in the Department of Defense, but it has applications in other departments as well.
JM: One of the customers we support with our tactical N1 solution is the United States Air Force Security Forces. They depend completely on this device in the field because when deployed, it’s their connection to everybody and everything.
JH: The N1 was originally developed as a logistics inventory management product with a barcode scanner on the rear of the unit. We knew this was a very good rugged device, so we customized it for federal use within the DoD and other civilian agencies for applications just like ATAK by removing the barcode scanner.
What is MFLEETS?
SH: After the Fort Hood incident, the Army realized that they had a gap in their capability to provide situational awareness on the many military installations around the country and the world. The findings that came out of the investigation recommended in-car video and computer-aided dispatch to provide situational awareness during any sort of law enforcement event.
Whether it’s state or local law enforcement, or a federal vehicle on an army position video capture, MFLEETS is a big piece of the job. One of the biggest headaches on the backend is managing that video storage, since there are very strict chain of evidence rules around video captured.
The Army has put a contract in place to address these requirements – a joint effort that’s open to all military entities, as well as other federal law enforcement agencies. In addition to military entities like the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, other law enforcement entities such as U.S. Forest Service, Department of the Interior, Capitol Police and many others.
How does Panasonic help these agencies meet MFLEETS standards?
JH: Our MFLEETS solution consists of a CF-33, our rugged two-in-one laptop, which acts as the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) solution in a vehicle. It communicates with camera systems that stream in-car video, and has microphones in the vehicle and on the officers, all communicating through a Panasonic-designed custom wiring vault. Because these features are so intertwined, deployment of these vehicles is seamless. Video evidence is pushed to a central database where it’s archived and stored, removing the need for any base-level video storage which makes the solution MFLEETS compliant – not to mention, it simplifies storage management.
To learn more about Panasonic’s solutions for federal challenges, visit: https://na.panasonic.com/us/industries/government-public-safety.