PocketBlue puts upgrade on patrol
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Jun 14, 2002
Aether Systems Inc. has released the first major upgrade of its increasingly
popular PocketBlue wireless handheld application for law enforcement agencies.
Version 2.0 was designed to make it easier for police officers to navigate
by just touching icons rather than scrolling down through text menus as
the original version offered, said Mike Layman, senior product marketing
manager. He said it's also more intuitive, so training on the software is
The original PocketBlue rolled out about a year ago and is used in 21
jurisdictions in 11 states. It was tested by the Louisiana State Police
during Super Bowl XXXVI, the West Valley City Police Department in Utah
during the Winter Olympics and at Boston's Logan International Airport.
The software, running on handheld devices, enables foot, bike or mounted
patrol officers to access secure, real-time data about vehicles, guns and
people by tapping into the National Crime Information Center, the National
Law Enforcement Telecommunications System and department of motor vehicles
databases. They can also send and receive e-mails.
Version 1.0 runs on Palm Inc.'s Palm Vx, Research in Motion Ltd.'s 950
and 957, and Symbol Technologies' SPT 1733 handheld devices. The upgrade
also runs on the Hewlett-Packard Co.'s iPaq platform.
Layman said Version 2.0 also has several major new features:
* Field Interview Tracking — An analytical reporting tool into which
officers enter data when stopping pedestrians and vehicles. Basic information,
such as the reason for the stop, can be entered through a set of forms and
drop-down menus. "There are some cities that have been mandated by the federal
government to collect this information because of incidents of racial profiling,"
Layman said, adding that this tool can be ordered as an option and is not
standard with the upgrade.
* A first-generation interface with computer-aided dispatch systems
— Enables officers to change their status, meaning they can tell a dispatcher
whether they are en route to a scene, available or out to lunch. Layman
said that capability previously was available with laptop computers, but
not handheld devices.
The upgrade was beta tested by the South Pasadena, Calif., Police Department;
the Lake County, Fla., Sheriff's Office; and Thurston County Communications,
a regional dispatch center in Washington state. Layman said there was strong
interest in PocketBlue 2.0, which was recently presented at an International
Association of Chiefs of Police law enforcement technology conference in
Adoption of handheld devices is not really a cultural issue as much
as it is a financial one, he said. It's easy to learn how to use the handhelds
and software, but financing it is a problem for many agencies, he said.
Subscribing to PocketBlue 2.0 costs $49 per month plus airtime, bringing
the total price to $89 per month per device, he said. A traditional software
licensing option is also available for agencies from Aether, which is based
in Owings Mill, Md.