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Sprint's Connected Officer platform helps keep cops safe

At SHOT Show 2018, Sprint announced more partners and options for its suite of Connected Officer hardware, software and communications


I’ll bet you didn’t know that SPRINT used to be an acronym for Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunications. The Southern Pacific maintained an extensive microwave communications system used for internal communications. Believing that the future meant selling services to other companies, they expanded this network by laying fiber optic cables along the same rights-of-way.

Fast forward to today and Sprint is the fourth largest mobile network operator in the United States – and is still innovating, by helping to save the lives of cops and other first responders.

At SHOT Show 2018, Sprint was showing off additional partners for its Connected Officer Platform, a suite of hardware, software and communications that separately or together have the back of every first responder. LAPD liked this platform so much that they deployed it to 7,000 officers.

Brian Mancuso, a Wyandotte County, Kansas, deputy and Sprint’s public sector strategic operations manager, guided me through some of these futuristic products.

What's Hot

New or updated products include:

  • Officer hit detection;
  • Officer-down detection;
  • Body-worn cameras with automatic activation and remote feed;
  • Smartphone-based gunshot detection with body-worn camera activation;
  • Smart holsters with body-worn camera activation;
  • Personal micro drone with remote feed;
  • Night vision with remote feed;
  • Indoor and outdoor infrastructure-less microcells.

Most, if not all, of these technologies are radical ideas, and several of them can save lives. Let’s dive a little deeper into them.

Really Smart Phones

You already know that smartphones are always on, know where they are and whether they are moving or stationary, know what position they are in, are always listening and usually are with their owner. Sprint and its partners are using these capabilities to their advantage.

Much of the functionality in this article uses applications that need the sensors built into a Samsung Note 8 or Samsung S8 Active. iOS functionality will be coming in a few months.

Smart Bodycams with Remote Feed

The cellular-based body-worn cameras are tightly coupled to the smartphones listed in the previous section. Basic functionality includes automatic triggers based on pre-defined department policies, integration with Bluetooth sensors, and officer and remote-initiated live streaming that can be sent via the cellular or agency’s radio network.

The automatic triggers and buffered recording eliminate the chance that an officer will forget to initiate recording or will miss that important first action.

Once recorded, video evidence is annotated by the officer in the field and then automatically uploaded wirelessly to CJIS-compliant cloud storage. This means no more end-of-shift docking or video tagging, which sometimes is forgotten.

Officer Hit and Officer Down Detection

Sensor panels from Select Engineering Services slide in front of an officer’s ballistic panels and detect the type and anatomical location of the wound and transmit this information to the attached smartphone app.

The app knows the geographic location of the officer and whether he she is down or on the move. This information, along with the officer’s name and blood type, is sent to those who need to know in near real time – and can include EMS.

The officer’s cellular-based bodycam and radio microphone can be activated upon detection, and the buffered recording might catch an image of the shooter that can be used to send a BOLO.

The panels are free to any officer when their agency buys them a Sprint smartphone for use with the Connected Officer Platform.

Gunshot and Officer Down Detection

Unlike traditional gunshot detection systems which are mounted in fixed locations around a community, Body-worn gunshot detection software runs on select Sprint smartphones. It is not designed to locate where a shot came from, but rather lets officers and those who need to know if they are under fire.

When a shot is detected, the app will trigger the closest officer’s body cam and open their microphone. It also will trigger the bodycams of all officers in the same area. Again, the buffered recording might catch an image of the shooter.

This app knows not only if the officer possibly was injured, but also if they are back in the fight, hunched down, or lying down. If they are lying down, the app can tell if they are on their stomach, back, or side and communicate that information.

Smart Holsters

Sprint’s Partner EAA is introducing a line of smart holsters that automatically activate a bodycam when an officer’s firearm is drawn. Again, the buffered recording may catch the reason the officer felt the need to deploy lethal force and the video can be live-streamed to where it is needed.

In addition to detecting the draw of a firearm, the holster knows when it is not being worn by the officer and can send an alert if it is picked up (perhaps by a curious child) or stolen. The holsters support embedded modems, Bluetooth transmitters, or both, so that they can provide tracking information to help with recovery, even if they are on the move.

Night Vision

Using a FLIR One connected to one of Sprint’s supported smartphones, video can be fed back via the Sprint network to the IC or command staff. Using an appropriate mount, you can even send “first person shooter” video from your marksmen or snipers. Sprint was showing off its system mounted to a patrol rifle using the Inteliscope Pro+ mount. While Inteliscope seems to be temporarily out of business, some merchants may have the company’s mounts in stock.

Personal Micro Drone

While this just sounds geeky, the AEE Selfy drone snaps into a cellphone case and can provide a 4-minute vital overview of a situation. Like the bodycam, the Selfy can use the officer’s Sprint cellphone to stream video back to the IC or HQ to help with decision-making. And with a $129 price, it’s easily replaceable if it gets shot out of the air.

Infrastructure-Less Microcells

None of Sprint’s solutions above work without sufficient coverage and I’m sure all of us have driven through cellular black holes. To combat this, Sprint has created indoor and outdoor microcells (The Magic Box and Airpole), which can extend coverage over an area equal to about 6 football fields.

Unlike home microcells that need to connect to a wired Internet connection, these microcells use Sprint’s 2.5 gHz network to link the to the closest Sprint cellphone tower. Since Sprint has more 2.5 gHz spectrum than the other USA carriers combined, they should be able to support thousands of these devices to fill in their network.

How much are they? Sprint says they will provide enough Magic Boxes and Airpoles at no charge to blanket any municipality with a Sprint contract.

I was thinking of command staff carrying one of these in their cars to quickly create an incident-wide cell site, but Sprint says it can take hour or more after they are powered up before they are ready for use. But they could be perfect to beef up your network for pre-scheduled events.

Advanced Hackers May Be Able To Tap Networks

Police, fire and EMS staff and vehicles need to stay connected. Communications networks need to be CJIS-compliant and they need to keep law enforcement and other sensitive data secure.

To meet these requirements, Sprint is supplying Sprint Secure Net licenses from Columbitech at no charge to any municipality that purchases Sprint mobile infrastructure. The CJIS compliant Application Persistence VPN is used to keep officers and police cars connected to the network no matter what – including temporary loss of connection.

Summary

Sprint and its partners have committed a substantial amount of resources to the Connected Officer Platform. Many of the new products and services are game changers and can save lives.

Watch for more SHOT Show 2018 coverage on PoliceOne!

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