Technology, Reviews and Business

During investigations police officers are likely to share information only sporadically with other jurisdictions. To help tie in the police community GTE Enterprise Solutions wants to harness the World Wide Web as a platform for secure information swapping browsing and real-time communications among law enforcement agencies.

The company said it would launch in February 1998 a Web-based private network service called The Bastille which is a secure information space that police officers could dial into to communicate with other agencies click through encrypted databases view photo lineups and exchange e-mail. "Police using the system will put in information about an individual and his alleged crimes to get an instant hit " said Brian Plotkin an operations manager for GTE's Law Enforcement Services. "That will then allow immediate communication between two or more police departments."

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Texas Florida Prototypes

GTE which demonstrated The Bastille at the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Orlando Fla. is now working with police departments in Texas and Florida to tweak the service.

"As an investigator one of my primary tools is information " said David Wilson a detective in the Irving Police Department one of 12 north Texas law enforcement agencies that will use The Bastille during a six-month trial. "I spend a lot of time running around trying to collect information about a case and I can tell you that law enforcement agencies typically horde information."

With The Bastille GTE wants to create an electronic community of law enforcement agencies to solve crimes especially cross-jurisdictional ones. "We are going to offer the capability to upload information from whatever system a police department is using taking information from their existing records management systems " Plotkin said. "We are also going to provide for the first time that I've seen a national directory of all of the clients on the system."

The Bastille will be equipped with databases that include crime watch information most-wanted suspects missing-children alerts sex offender release notifications criminal and missing-persons photos and maps of neighborhood trouble spots.

Some of the computer industry's biggest companies are lining up to collaborate on the effort. Informix Corp. will provide its Universal Server platform so agencies can search crime-fighting data including images texts documents and maps regardless of the format. Silicon Graphics Inc. will provide its WebForce Origin 2000 and Origin 200 servers. Excalibur Technologies Corp. is providing intelligent search and retrieval capabilities through its RetrievalWare product.

"Offices will interact with other officers using their own language and their own responses " said Mark Willey director of strategic alliance at Excalibur. RetrievalWare uses two technologies: semantic networks and Adaptive Pattern Recognition Processing which can sort through data and ignore "fuzzy spellings" and unusual word combinations.

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Intuitive Searches

Intuitive searching is especially important in law enforcement which has a language all its own echoed GTE's Plotkin. "In Washington D.C. a police officer may call the narcotic crack cocaine 'crack ' but someone in California may have a different name for it " he said. "Or the term 'drug pusher'-the service will go through every possible field in the database searching for the combination of the words 'drug' and 'pusher' and other related terms including 'cocaine' and 'crack.' "

For all of the sophisticated searching and querying The Bastille asks very little of users in terms of resources. "The product itself is purely Internet-based and requires only that clients have a PC Macintosh or Unix workstation and Internet connection " Plotkin said. For a fee of $199 per user The Bastille will provide basic e-mail and access to Internet chat groups as well as criminal investigative division applications.

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New Software Aims at Geoengineering Enterprise

Bentley Systems Inc. the Exton Pa.-based engineering software firm is going after a new niche: planners and managers across an engineering enterprise who want access to geoengineering data but don't necessarily need the power of a full-blown design station.

The company's new GeoOutlook tool available for Windows 95 and Windows NT offers map-data querying basic spatial analysis graphical presentation feature management and reporting capabilities. "Many managers and workers in the field have difficulty viewing the data they need to accomplish their geoengineering work " said Jean Baptiste Monier vice president of geoengineering at Bentley. "What these people need is access to the live data and an easy way to make smart queries.

"We didn't want a product that was a poor man's tool " he added. "In developing the software tool we strived to replicate the performance of a full editing station for all data viewers."

Peter van Muyden a GIS systems analyst for Edmonton Power Alberta Canada said the tool "provides a low-cost way for us to expand access to engineering information." Edmonton Power employs about 300 field technicians and linemen to install cables inspect power lines and respond to emergencies.

Using the tool Edmonton Power field workers have access to detailed utility information on gas water drainage traffic and telephones.

"We can overlay all that information on our data and see geographically what's in the ground " van Muyden said.

The application is also tied to a Global Positioning System and aerial photography which allows easy referencing of buildings facilities and pole structures.

"We will also be using GeoOutlook for inspections using pen-based computers " he said. "At night we will upload inspection information into the master GIS system" to allow the planning people to take appropriate action and provide up-to-date records back to field technicians the next day. "This eliminates the need for paper copies in the field."

Bentley is also readying a new server software that gives users access to live geoengineering data via standard Web browsers. The new server called ModelServer Discovery distributes feature and attribute data and allows users to query data from Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer and other standard browsers.

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