When you think about how police officers communicate in the field, the first thing that comes to mind is likely two-way radio. And that’s fair: Field operations in public safety have long been centered around radio communications. But that mental image might need an update soon.

I recently spoke with Scott MacDonald, vice president of strategy and marketing at CentralSquare Technologies, about how technology is changing public safety workflows — and how smartphones and smartwatches are helping mobile field operations evolve into the 21st century.

“The challenges in law enforcement have been, and continue to be, the same throughout the years,” MacDonald said. “Now that we have the ability to bring more information to the officer when they are outside of the vehicle, it opens up a lot more possibility from both an interoperability and safety perspective.”

With the introduction of specialized mobile apps, officers gain access to critical information about a location, suspect or an unfolding emergency — wherever they are. These apps also grant them the ability to better coordinate responses with other officers.

MacDonald demonstrated CentralSquare’s Field Ops app, which provides officers and supervisors with a user-friendly, secure way to use a smartphone to do essential work on the move. The app’s powerful computer aided dispatch and resource management capabilities are delivered in a way that best supports the officer’s daily work.

The Field Ops app also allows agencies to replace other devices used for evidence collection. Officers can digitally capture information that would have otherwise needed to be logged, collected and stored in a less efficient way.

“Smartphones are phenomenal for getting and receiving information, quick notifications and being able to click a few buttons to update your status,” MacDonald explained, “But with the Field Ops app, they are also a powerful tool for evidence collection.”

MacDonald doesn’t want to limit innovation to just smartphones, however.

“CentralSquare is really looking at those most important use cases that could be achieved from a smartwatch on the wrist of an officer,” he said.

From tracking an officer the moment he or she exits the patrol car to giving quick notifications on the whereabouts of a suspect, smartwatches will play a pivotal role in enabling officers to receive and process updates without having to pull out yet another device — or take their focus away from a crime scene.

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