Law Enforcement Needs Fuel IT Business Niche
By Andrea Novotny
State and local law enforcement agencies are fueling new business for companies that provide laptop computers and other mobile devices, such as hand-held PCs, prodded in part by $200 million in federal grants.
A official in Chicago's 911 control center uses
PRC's Altaris map feature system. Litton-PRC
is one provider of IT services that is finding
new business in state and local law
enforcement's use of technology.
The Department of Justice will begin reviewing requests in late June from state and local law enforcement departments for the purchase of such technology under its Cops More program. State and local law enforcement departments receiving grants must provide a minimum 25 percent cash match.
The program, which was developed by the Department of Justice under the 1994 Crime Act, is designed to allow police officers to spend more time on the streets rather than filling out paperwork. The Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services administers the grant program, which is funded from a portion of the office's budget.
State and local law enforcement agencies are increasingly turning to portable technologies, such as laptops, hand-held PCs and cellular phones, which provide officers in the field instant access to a wide range of information. For example, police officers can access local, state and national law enforcement databases using laptop computers in patrol cars.
"Mobile computing will be the next wave of capability for law enforcement," said Tom Reinhardt, national account manager for law enforcement systems for Litton-PRC Inc., McLean, Va., which provides a range of IT services, including the integration of mobile data solutions with dispatch and information systems.
"Federal funding is pushing mobile information technology further down into the hands of [state and local law enforcement officials,]" Reinhardt said. "That results in PRC's ability to provide more systems and services to the [public safety] market."
State and local government spending on mobile information systems nationwide was $95 million in 1997 and growing at an annual rate of 18 percent, said Lesley Kao, public sector market analyst for G2R Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based research firm. That figure should hit $112 million by 1999, she said.
Already, players such as Cerulean Technology Inc., Marlboro, Mass.; IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.; Litton-PRC Inc., McLean, Va.; Symbol Technologies Inc., Holtsville, N.Y.; Telxon Corp., Akron, Ohio; and TRW Inc., Cleveland, are arming law enforcement officials with mobile technology.
Another player is Cycomm International of McLean, Va., which designs, manufactures and markets value-added secure computers and rugged laptops built to sustain extreme conditions.
Albert Hawk, president and CEO of Cycomm, said he expects 1998 sales to law enforcement agencies from the company's PCMobile laptops to reach $25 million, a jump from last year's figure of less than $8 million.
"The federal funds from the Cops More program have jump-started Cycomm's public safety market," Hawk said. "We expect that growth to continue."
Last year the company posted annual revenues of $15.7 million. By this year's end, Hawk projects that figure will double to $30 million.
Cycomm's mobile computers are being used by law enforcement agencies in Philadelphia, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., as well as Burlington County, N.J., and Henrico County, Va.
Since March, the District of Columbia has been using 14 PCMobile laptops that allow police to run identification checks on suspects, check motor vehicle department records, locate stolen vehicles, communicate car to car, write crime reports and transfer files.
The district plans to have 177 of the company's devices installed by year's end, company officials said.
"The hot new technology state and local governments are clearly asking for is mobile information technology," said Matt Snyder, clearinghouse administrator for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Alexandria, Va., a nonprofit organization made up of more than 16,000 police executives from 94 countries.
The organization helps educate and train police administrators on a variety of issues, including the best use of technology in police work.
Most states and localities are moving toward building the infrastructure for integrated information systems that are accessible in a mobile computing environment, Snyder said.
Local police departments in Colorado, Georgia, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin are using mobile information systems, and other local governments recently have issued requests for proposals, according to the association.
In Missouri, IBM began work in March on a three-year project to equip the state highway patrol with rugged laptops, said Ralph Fuller, business development manager for IBM Public Safety Justice and Identification.
As a result, troopers also will be able to communicate with emergency dispatch centers and file accident reports from the field, Fuller said.
And in North Carolina, IBM is finishing work on a statewide mobile information system for the highway patrol, Fuller said.
That system will have 1,100 rugged laptops being used in patrol cars by year's end, Fuller said.
"The challenge for companies ... is to see where the technology is going and to make sure [their] systems are focused on taking advantage of that technology," said Don Sutherland, vice president of criminal justice programs for TRW Inc. The company does not break out its revenues for its public safety business.
In Atlanta, TRW is working as prime on a $3 million project to gear patrol cars with 175 rugged laptops, said Lee Steinberg, project manager for TRW's Atlanta project.
The city received a $400,000 grant provided by the Cops More program for that project, which will be complete by year's end.
Police already are able to use that system to communicate with local, state and national databases, as well as complete reports in the field, Steinberg said.
As for PRC, that company has provided mobile computers to about 80 state and local law enforcement agencies, including those in Chicago, Philadelphia and Fairfax County, Va., most with the help of federal grants, said Mike Drewes, chief operating officer for PRC's Public Sector Inc. PRC does not break out its revenues for its public safety business.
Safety Spending By The Numbers
|Total IT Spending by State and Local Governments in the Public Safety Market |
|1997 ||$5.1 billion |
|1998 projected ||$5.4 billion |
|State and Local Spending on Mobile Data Terminals |
|1997 ||$95 million |
|1998 projected ||$112 million |
|State and Local Spending on Records Management Systems |
|1997 ||$373 million |
|1998 projected ||$429 million |
|State and Local Spending on Computer-Aided Dispatch Systems |
|1997 ||$395 million |
|1998 projected ||$450 million |
|State and Local Spending on Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems |
|1997 ||$119 million |
|1998 projected ||$135 million |
|Source: G2R |