Police expert calls for open-source data tools

Police expert calls for open-source data tools

Summary: The emergency services should be using open-source software to ease the exchange of data, according to ACPO data expert Ian Readhead

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Police data systems should be based on open-source software, according to a senior member of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Ian Readhead, director of information for ACPO, said on Tuesday at a Unisys security event that emergency service data transferal systems should be open source, to help ensure interoperability between them.

"Perhaps the future isn't about licensing different products," Readhead told ZDNet UK. "There will be a need to look at compatibility."

Currently police forces use a patchwork of proprietary and open source systems. The Holmes 2 (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) police database, which is run on behalf of the police by Unisys, is optimised to run on both Linux and propietary systems. The police communicate using a mixture of propietary systems from companies including Airwave, Blackberry and Orange.

The different police data systems in the UK will increasingly converge, Readhead noted. He believes that relying on a single provider for this unified system will not necessarily mean that information could be exchanged more efficiently, and would not have business benefits.

"Convergence is not about being with one supplier, but about building systems in such a way to move data seamlessly, without sacrificing privacy or security," he said.

Readhead noted that in a fast-evolving situation such as a flood, or following an explosion, emergency services require data systems that can quickly transfer and update information. "The focus needs to be on emergency response and how a whole raft of partner agencies deal with emergencies in a way that transcends data considerations," he said.

He noted that proprietary technology vendors such as Microsoft want to work with an open-source capability. Microsoft develops open source code under its Codeplex project, and distributes it under Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL), one of Microsoft's OSI-certified open-source licences.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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