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NZ Police leans on Vodafone mobile devices in bid to cut back paperwork

New Zealand Police is targeting more productivity gains in one of the world's biggest deployments of handheld smart devices, working on new applications to further reduce the amount of time spent away from frontline policing.

The country's law enforcement agency estimates it will reap $300 million in productivity gains over the 10-year period of its $160 million contract with Vodafone New Zealand, with about 30 minutes of time saved per officer per shift, and NZ Police wants to see that grow with the development of new applications from a newly launched "innovation lab."

"It's a huge benefit for police overall because those additional hours can be put back into more productive work," Stephen Crombie, executive director of information, technology and systems at NZ Police told BusinessDesk. "We see that continuing on. That's why we got very buoyed by this mobility approach."

The Wellington-based lab has been set up with Vodafone, Nokia, Airpoint, Smudge, Intergraph and Broadsoft, and aims to develop and test mobility ideas in a self-contained network, which Police hopes will spin out new and better offerings. The hub is open to other government agencies to participate in and share new developments.

Crombie said the "really big gain" is reducing the need for officers to return to the station for administrative matters, and that the next iterations of mobile developments to let officers use devices to process everything could translate into productivity gains in hours rather than minutes.

"Our vision would see, and it's shared with the Ministry of Justices, a digital end-to-end process all the way through. That's just where the world's going," Crombie said. "That requires a lot of change and adaption of the legal framework. That's just a process we need to work our way through."

Constable Jake Attwood, a frontline officer who has been using the devices for about 17 months, said the mobile connectivity had reduced the amount of time he needed to spend on administration, and while it didn't solve all of the paperwork problems it resulted in cutting the time spent at the office.

Attwood said while the devices themselves aren't a cure-all solution, the connectivity makes policing easier by providing access to information that might not have previously been there, citing an aggravated robbery in central Wellington as an example where he was able to email photos of the attackers to officers on the street who arrested the pair, who were since convicted.

For Attwood, the "game changer" would be being able to have people sign on a mobile device and have that deemed a legal document.

Vodafone New Zealand chief executive Russell Stanners said developing mobile applications seeks to enhance existing processes by exploiting the power of smart devices, which fundamentally change the way organisations operate.

The telecommunications company hasn't had to invest too much in the lab, beyond fitting out the building and preparing it for the lab, and Stanners said his experience with mobile applications is that "you build one application for one customer and there's always something you learn that can be used in another application for another customer."

Stephen Willson, country manager of Intergraph which built the management system for Police's 111-emergency line, said the roll-out of some 15,000 devices across the organisation was one of the largest deployments of handheld smart devices in the world, and put NZ Police at the global forefront.

Interchange has worked with NZ Police since 1996, and has developed the Mobile Responder app in the latest initiative, which lets officers access the dispatch system via their device. The app was developed by Interchange's local team in conjunction with head office, and since been exported across the company's global group.