If you've got a smartphone or a tablet, apps are probably an intrinsic part of your daily life; from checking the weather to ordering theatre tickets, nowadays there's an app for almost everything. But apps are equally useful in the workplace and can be a great way to save time and effort. By streamlining essential processes - maybe processes that you repeat hundreds of times a day - they can help to increase productivity, give fast access to critical information when you most need it, and reduce the need for voice calls, which in turn conserves valuable bandwidth.
Perhaps surprisingly, despite the significant savings in time and resources, apps are often extremely low-cost, making your network work harder for you and bringing a higher return on your investment. And if you invest in apps that are bearer agnostic, whatever the future holds they'll remain valid and move across technologies with you.
So how can you harness the power of apps in a critical communications environment? Well, as the diagram below shows, you can create a flexible, modular architecture - existing within your IT domain or virtualised in the cloud - that provides an instant connection between your back-end systems and a range of devices, from tablets to TETRA radios.
In practice, this could have almost limitless uses: years ago, when I was a police officer, photographs of missing and wanted persons were photocopied and handed out. Very often, the 'golden hour' - the period immediately following a person's disappearance when they are most likely to be found - was spent disseminating information. That information can now be made available at the press of a button.
An app like Image Messaging can be integrated with CCTV systems and body-worn video recording solutions, taking images and disseminating them to TETRA radios and Java-enabled devices within seconds. Additional details and location information can be transmitted along with the image, instantly providing a clear, concise parcel of information.
Something like a vehicle and person check would typically be done via a voice call:
This exchange uses significant network capacity and resources, keeping the officer in the field, the dispatcher and the voice channel occupied for a minute or more. Voice transmission also carries an increased risk of inaccurate information transferral.
Now consider the same check made via the Query application.
Query connects the front line officer with the Police National Computer and provides access from a range of devices, including personal radios, tablets and mobile data terminals. Within seconds, the app returns complete and accurate information, minimising the margin for error. It also uses significantly less network capacity and resources, utilising just two text messages to complete the transaction in approximately 11 seconds.
Of course, the relevance of apps isn't limited to policing. Airports, for example, can take advantage of apps to interface with backend systems and provide key information to their operatives on the ground.
Short Data Applications (SDAs) can be used to communicate information and instructions as unambiguous data messages, directing a team to service and prepare an inbound aircraft. Once all tasks are complete, a supervisor sends an 'end of job' message to the system, confirming that the plane is ready for its next journey.
Maintenance workers can interrogate back office inventory systems to query stock levels and order parts and an app such as Locate allow the dispatcher to visualise the location of teams from a tablet or smartphone, without the need to be seated at a desktop PC.
One other example within a critical communications setting where the power of our apps solutions are relied upon is the deployment of STProtect, our indoor location solution, at the Hadron Collider in CERN, where it's used to locate workers underground across multiple countries.
Essentially, if your organisation would benefit from increased efficiency, enhanced communications or augmented worker safety, there's probably an app for you.
To find out more about what apps can do for your organisation, visit www.sepura.com/applications.