Introducing the Core Talon Mobile App
Police officers on foot, bike or otherwise going mobile will soon be able to securely access essential information from law enforcement databases including images through a new phone app developed by Core Technology. Talon Mobile App works on almost any wireless, handheld device with cell phone or WiFi service and runs on Android or iOS. Using Core Technology’s easy to use two-factor authentication matrix for end-to-end security, Talon Mobile App is compliant with FBI and State CJIS security policy requirements.
University police help fine-tune state-of-the-art mobile app for wider use
An officer on a mountain bike stops to check information on a handheld device. Another runs details on a vehicle and a suspect while outside her patrol car. A few blocks away, a policeman on foot quickly swipes a tablet before approaching a situation.
While law enforcement agencies have traditionally relied on communication systems inside cars, through laptops, or at central dispatch, advances in mobile technology are promising to change the landscape for quick, reliable and secure access to vital information.
In the coming year, foot, bike, undercover and other specialized patrol officers across the nation will be able to tap into state and regional databases through a new app developed by Lansing-based Core Technology. Operated through a smart phone, tablet, or other wireless device, the Talon Mobile App allows officers to securely retrieve LEIN, NCIC and NLets data wherever cell service or secure WiFi is available.
Available for use in fall 2014, the Talon Mobile App is easy-to-use, affordable and runs on both Android and iOS systems. The FBI and State CJIS also recently deemed the app compliant for the secure exchange of information related to people, guns, vehicles, boats and other articles. What’s more, the app was recently given a “thumbs up” by two police and public safety departments in Michigan that served as beta testers: Wayne State University and Michigan State University.
“It’s all part of improving police operations through communications,” says Chris Demos, lead systems administrator at the Wayne State University Police Department. “Our ability to be a Beta site was a chance to see what lies ahead in the computing landscape.”
Testing for perfection
Wayne State University, Demos says, was excited to hear about the Talon Mobile App, particularly in light of a recent donation from a community organization.
In February of 2014, the department received 18 iPad Air tablets from a Midtown Detroit non-profit and wanted to maximize the capabilities of the devices beyond the typical use.
The Talon Mobile App, Demos says, presented an exceptional opportunity to be on the forefront of modern policing capabilities.
“The use of mobile technology had been a slow brewing process with us that we knew would accelerate,” says Demos. “The technology donation plus Core’s innovation was a serendipitous combination.”
Demos had started talking with Core around the spring of 2011, not long after the release of the original iPad effected a significant change in mobile computing. A partnership formed in February 2014, Demos says, owing in part to the iPads in hand as well as to Core’s advanced stage of development with the Talon Mobile App. In August, Wayne State deployed the new app within their patrol areas that cover the university’s main campus, the medical center campus, and surrounding Mid-Town neighborhoods. Supervisor-ranked officers within the Wayne State Police Department were equipped with one of the donated iPad Airs for this testing.
“We saw beta testing as an opportunity to maximize the utility of the iPad devices,” says Demos. “When we loaded the Talon app, we quickly saw how we could use the iPads for a number of different purposes, and most importantly, as a venue for this specific police application that enables the access of vital law enforcement information.”
Here to stay
Wayne State Police stayed in constant communication with Core throughout the beta testing, providing feedback and suggestions every step of the way. Although most officers were already familiar with the use of mobile technologies, each received individualized walkthrough sessions of about 30 minutes each. Additional information was also provided through comprehensive recaps that brought all officers together in the same room. Core representatives attended the recaps so they could receive immediate feedback. As a result, officers walked away fully able to use the app for mobile or remote functions.
With the app, Demos says, officers simply press a button for instant connectivity through a cellular network or secure WiFi connection. The app eliminates wait times, the need to go back and use a system in a car, use of the radio (if silence is desired), or even a return to the station to seek out a LEIN terminal.
“First and foremost, the app provided an additional layer and a more efficient computing paradigm,” says Demos. “With a laptop, for instance, officers have to flip it open, wait for icons and messages to load, and connect to a cellular modem. There are lots of steps that can take minutes.”
While the intent of the app isn’t to replace time-tested systems, it does provide officers with an additional tool, with the overall effect being improved communication, back-up communications and safety.
“Officers have multiple layers and what we call redundancies for accessing LEIN and other data,” says Demos. “In some cases, it may be safer for them to use the radio, in others they may not want to create noise and the app is safer. When you give officers more options, it has an effect on safety.”
Being a beta test site, Demos says, gave WSU a chance to help fine-tune an app that could bring sweeping changes to law enforcement communications. Through daily use, officers tested basic interface features like screen placement, point size and font, and suggested interface changes that contributed to ease of use. Feedback was also submitted to Core about other inevitable bugs and performance issues that are part of normal software development.
“Mobile devices are not to be ignored,” says Demos. “They are here to stay. Things are evolving really fast, and there will be increasing diversity in computing. And sometimes, those options can be good.”