Situational awareness is a key component of law enforcement operations and critical to maintaining officer safety. Officers are aware that threats can come from any direction at any time, and that their environments will often be both unstable and unpredictable. Traditionally, individuals have relied on radio-based systems and over-the-air communication to provide situational information. However, the proliferation of mobile technology has taken the potential for expanding communication, scene assessment and plan development to a completely new level.

One company advancing situational awareness technology is Blueforce Development. Headquartered in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the organization was established in 2005 and supports both public safety and military operations. Michael Helfrich, Blueforce Development’s founder and CEO, says the company’s mission is to “increase operational efficiency and bring these folks home at night.”

A New Solution for Public Safety Agencies

Blueforce Development has two mobile software products, Blueforce Tactical and Blueforce Command, that “power the intelligent edge.” The products are complementary, with Blueforce Tactical supporting front-line personnel and Blueforce Command informing the far-forward or on-scene commander.

Both leverage the power and functionality of Samsung’s smartphones and tablets and are designed to connect people, sensors and services to improve operational effectiveness and safety. Essentially, any external sensor with a functional API can be integrated to the Blueforce system and provide user-determined information in a real-time continuous feed or trigger an alert based on user-configured thresholds.

“With Blueforce Tactical, officers at an incident can quickly develop and share a common operating picture to effectively address the threat,” said Helfrich.

In the field, front-line operators don’t want to be tasked with holding a smartphone in their hand and being head down trying to sort through too much information as a situation unfolds. They need the information pushed to them in the manner that works for their situation. Blueforce Tactical allows for configuration of alerts so that they can be an audible tone, vibration or light and can communicate the most important info to a heads-up display or wearables like the Samsung Gear S3 watch. This reduces the need for front-line officers to constantly describe the situation over a land radio or other systems that make it difficult to convey this information.

Blueforce Tactical enables the rapid formation of teams and allows for robust, yet secure, information sharing among team members. Geo-location and end-user status are supported along with text, chat and photo/document sharing between individuals or within a group. External sensor data such as pulse rate, galvanic stress indication, firearm status, radiation detection, poison gas exposure and real-time video feeds from UAVs and K9 cameras can be viewed on demand by team members or a selected team leader. Additionally, the software allows commanders to leverage and control all available sensors in Samsung devices to gain information should an officer become compromised.

For decision-makers, Blueforce Command consolidates multiple sources of real-time information into a single-pane-of-glass view. It’s intended for on-scene commanders working out of a vehicle or command post. Blueforce Command operates on Windows and/or HTML5 client computing platforms and intelligently combines information from deployed personnel, body-mounted or unattended sources, autonomous agents, camera feeds and information services.

The result is timely and solid decisions based on synchronized, real-time information. Blueforce Command scales to thousands of subscribed endpoints and provides shared situational awareness, alerting and notification, full chain of custody storage, charting and an interoperability layer for exchange with other enterprise systems such as computer-aided dispatch (CAD) or geographical information systems (GIS) that utilize open internet standards and protocols.

Blueforce Tactical and Blueforce Command can be scaled to meet the needs of any agency, are useful in a variety of environments and compatible with multiple types of mobile technology. From search and rescue to tactical entry, the real-time awareness of team member location and activity is invaluable.

If an agency wants to enable the already-issued devices of arriving officers, a scene commander can onboard them by sending an SMS message with a unique link that will, in approximately two minutes, enroll the phones so they each become an end-point device reporting to Blueforce Command.

The products also support multi-jurisdictional efforts, such as handling a mass casualty incident. Blueforce Development works with agencies to ensure mission expectations are met and to integrate the products with existing communication platforms and sensors.

Ever-Expanding Use Cases

Since Blueforce Development’s software is designed to work with a variety of applications, and help departments quickly connect to communication systems, it can be structured for all types of scenarios. Some examples include:

  • A metro police department bomb dog is outfitted with sensors that detect radiation, gas and specific chemicals as well as a purpose-mounted smartphone. The handler deploys the dog into a tunnel area where a suspicious device has been reported. The handler can stay in a position of safety, monitoring the location and progress of the dog. The sensors will provide real-time alerting and the handler can remotely activate the audio and camera on the phone so that they can see and hear what is going. If the dog detects an explosive and alerts via gestures, the gyro-sensors in the phone convey the dog’s action to the handler.
  • A multi-agency terrorism drill that involves a simulated school bombing. A go-kit comprised of 20 Blueforce-equipped phones supported the event. Arriving officers were each issued a phone which they then pointed at a QR code at the command center. This conveyed all information and operating parameters relevant to the incident. Each phone was assigned an alias, which provided a unique identifier to the operations commander, helping them keep track of all on-scene personnel.

Blueforce Tactical and Blueforce Command provide powerful tools that leverage today’s smartphone and provide real-time situational awareness for first responders. The software, when paired with Samsung technology, offers an easy way for agencies to quickly address situations, collaborate with multiple agencies and improve overall situational awareness.

Learn more about public safety technology that is improving officer safety and access to information.