Case study: How laptops with Citrix XenDesktop are keeping bobbies out of the station
Leicestershire police force is using Citrix XenDesktop to give patrol officers access to central police systems when they're out and about, enabling them to file reports remotely and reduce the amount of time spent travelling to and from the station.
The force has installed Citrix XenDesktop on 200 Panasonic CF-19 ToughBook laptops to be used in conjunction with docking mounts in patrol cars, or demounted and taken into premises while 3G and GPRS provide the connectivity so officers can access central systems via the virtualised desktop environment.
Using the ToughBooks, officers are able to cut out various time-wasting processes, according to James Pearce, information systems analyst at Leicestershire Constabulary. "Before, all officers would have to return to the station pretty much every time they'd got a job that required either intelligence gathering to be done or to input any information into the system," he said.
Typically, if a member of the public reported their house had been burgled, an officer would return to the station to collect information on the burglary and then go to the crime scene itself. If there were any statements to be taken, the officer would write them by hand and then once again return to the station in order to input the information into police systems, Pearce added.
Now however, he said, officers armed with ToughBooks can access relevant systems and brain up on the necessary data from the comfort of their cars.
Pearce added: "[They now] come into your house all fully briefed up... And then input all of the information straight on [to the systems] there at the scene - which I'm told is a UK first for a police force to enter full crime information at the scene."
The force has estimated its police officers spend almost a third of their time processing paperwork or travelling back to the office to do so, so Pearce claimed efficiency savings of up to 30 per cent are possible using the virtualised desktop system in conjunction with the rugged tablets.
He gave the example of patrol officers who previously had to come back to the station at the end of the day and put in three or four hours overtime to get their paperwork done but who can now do it as they go along. "[Using the ToughBooks] fits in with the force's goal of reducing bureaucracy too," he added.
Using a virtualised desktop environment also makes sense for security, according to Pearce. "The data really doesn't actually leave the station in its raw format - the way Citrix works it's just pictures that are being transmitted over the network and keystrokes back in the opposite direction so the data itself remains in the datacentre. Nothing remains on the ToughBook itself if it's stolen," said Pearce.
The force has also implemented hard drive encryption and the Computrace asset tracking system on the ToughBooks. The tablet laptops have also been "rigorously" tested for ergonomics and crash tested, he added.
However, as well as fully blown laptops, the constabulary is also deploying up to 600 BlackBerry Bold smartphones for officers on foot patrol, enabling them to do basic searches of systems when out and about.
Pearce told silicon.com: "Not everybody's got a car so not everybody's going to have access to the ToughBook so for people like your beat officers that are working the street, they don't need to do a full report there and then, so what they'll probably do is add some pertinent information onto something like a BlackBerry to get the information started."
"When we first started working on this, it was envisaged that we'd be able to deliver what we've delivered to the ToughBooks onto PDAs. But actually, upon further examination, it was found that it's not practical really - based on the fact that [PDAs have] limited screen size and also it being hard to input onto those systems as well - you haven't got a full keyboard which makes it particularly hard to use," Pearce explained.
One unforeseen benefit of the deployment has been to free up computers at the station as fewer officers need to use them to file their reports. "The computers that we've got in the station are being better utilised," said Pearce. "A scenario that we'd have in the past would be almost queuing to use machines because of demand… whereas now that's freed up so access to information in the station's improved as well."