Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Allen Smith, Chief of Police for the Atlantic Beach Police Department

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Allen Smith, Chief of Police for the Atlantic Beach Police Department, about using the Windows Azure platform for its first-responders, law enforcement solution. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN: Tell us about the Atlantic Beach Police Department and the services you offer.

Smith: Our mission at the Atlantic Beach Police Department is to deliver “community-oriented policing.” That is, to join in a partnership with our residents, merchants, and visitors to provide a constant, safe environment through citizen and police interaction in the town of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. 

MSDN: What were the biggest challenges that you faced prior to implementing the Windows Azure platform?

Smith: We constantly seek new ways to protect citizens and police officers. We are a small police department with only 18 full-time police officers, and one of our biggest challenges is cost. We have to operate within a budget, so we need cost-effective ways to systematically solve our challenges-whether they’re current challenges or potential future challenges. One area where we saw an opportunity for improvement was the number of electronic devices that officers use. Police officers use multiple devices, such as in-car cameras, portable computers, and mobile telephones. We wanted to find a way to cost-effectively consolidate these devices.  

MSDN: Can you describe the first-responders, law enforcement solution you built with the Windows Azure platform?

Smith: We use a geo-casting system developed by IncaX that is hosted in the cloud on Windows Azure and installed on several models of commercial, off-the-shelf smartphones. With the smartphones, officers can make phone calls and connect to the Internet and web-based applications that help them perform common tasks, such as checking for warrants during traffic stops. The smartphones act as in-car cameras, and they are equipped with geographic information system (GIS) software that enables us to locate officers wherever they are. This allows us to direct other responders to a scene or help officers when they require assistance. All of the data we collect is stored in Windows Azure Table storage.

 

The geographic information system in the smartphones enables the Atlantic Beach Police Department to locate police officers wherever they are, and streams a live camera feed to the Chief of Police’s desktop computer.

MSDN: What makes your solution unique?                  

Smith: Though we are still in the testing phase, one thing that makes our solution unique, and we’ll be one of the first police departments in the world to do this, is that we will be able to consolidate three devices that are regular tools for police officers down to one device that acts as an in-car camera, computer, and a mobile phone. We can locate officers wherever they are, and I will have a live camera feed from the police cruiser to my desktop computer in my office-we’re always connected.

MSDN: What kinds of benefits are you realizing with the Windows Azure platform?

Smith: We have a first-responders application for law enforcement officers that is GIS-enabled, which helps better protect citizens and police officers-that’s our number one priority, so is the underlying benefit we’ve gained from the solution. At the same time, by using Windows Azure to host the application at Microsoft data centers, we’re able to reduce our IT maintenance and management costs. In addition, we’re able to reduce hardware costs by consolidating our devices, which is something we would not have been able to do without hosting our application on Windows Azure.

To learn more about the Windows Azure solution used by the Atlantic Beach Police Department, and its broader applicability to you as a customer or partner, please contact Ranjit Sodhi, Microsoft Services Partner Lead: http://customerpartneradvocate.wordpress.com/contact

To read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit: www.windowsazure.com/evidence