Hybrid cloud is the answer for law enforcement

  • techUK techUK
    Monday24Sep 2018

    Guest Blog: Mark Goossens, Client Director for Home Office & Police at IBM, explores how cloud enables a data sharing future for law enforcement.

adjective: hybrid

                of mixed character; composed of different elements.

                e.g. "hybrid petrol-electric cars"

As a self-confessed petrol head, I tend to relate everything back to cars. Having just one car in your garage is always going to be a compromise between fun to drive and utility. A similar analogy could apply to cloud, but it’s probably more useful, as cloud is a service, to relate it to something like airlines. Making the decision to always fly British Airways, whilst admirable isn’t always the best answer. Maybe BA don’t go where I need to go, or maybe I want to ship freight...

Any organisation adopting cloud services should have an open mind. “We’ve decided to use XYZ Cloud for all our needs”, suggests laziness or ignorance. Equally, “cloud is not secure enough for law enforcement”, misses the point. We tend not to keep cash under the mattress, instead relying on banking professionals to keep it safe – surely the same applies for our data?

There are now a number of secure cloud offerings available to law enforcement. It is sensible to decide to use a specific cloud for a specific purpose – e.g. “let’s keep all of our Office documents in the Microsoft cloud” – given appropriate access management, this allows people from across law enforcement to securely share documents. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ve chosen your cloud for storing Body Worn Video or Crime Intelligence, which are both quite different problems. For long term storage of evidential BWV, the choice of solution needs to be based on three things:

  • How cheaply can I store the video with decent performance initially? 
  • How cheap is it when I just need to keep it safe with infrequent access?
  • How much does it cost to move it to a new supplier, when someone cheaper comes along?

When comparing costs, remember cloud includes everything – ensure that you compare this to your true in-house costs which include hardware, network, security, datacentre, electricity and people.

Historically, IT vendors did a good job of locking people in. Today, we live in an open standards world with defined ways for systems to talk to one another. For a long time technology has allowed us the ability to share data across systems, however typically people find excuses not to share data. Cloud as an enabling technology gives us a rosy future. The National Law Enforcement Data Programme, the bringing together of the Police National Computer and Police National Database into a single cloud hosted solution will change the way we work. Using the PNC data as an index for all of the PND data from all forces will mean that we will have one coherent view of intelligence across the UK.

Next, this solution will exploit Artificial Intelligence, to spot patterns in complex data sets that are just too complex for humans to digest. There are many IT organisations, large and small, creating specific AI capabilities, ranging from “automating the extraction of POLE data from witness statements”, to “spotting all the young men in a video sporting a red baseball cap and facial hair”. These will all be delivered by cloud, but not the same cloud. The modern police system will need to make these automated enquiries across the multiple ‘hybrid’ cloud landscape, to use the best capability to solve the specific problem. When somebody comes up with a better/cheaper facial recognition system, we just point the query at that cloud instead.

Hopefully you can now see that the answer is hybrid, multiple clouds plus in-house capabilities. This approach enables the sharing of data. Because of the open nature of modern IT, it also doesn’t mean that we’ve increased complexity – just improved functionality and reduced cost.





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  • Sue Daley

    Sue Daley

    Associate Director, Technology & Innovation
    T 020 7331 2055
  • Katherine Mayes

    Katherine Mayes

    Programme Manager | Cloud, Data, Analytics and AI
    T 020 7331 2019

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