Police expert calls for open source data tools

Emergency services should use open source software to ease exchange of data, according to data expert from U.K. Association of Chief Police Officers.
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Police data systems should be based on open source software, according to a data expert working with law enforcement.

Ian Readhead, director of information for the U.K. Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said 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 Asia's sister site ZDNet UK.

"There will be a need to look at compatibility."

Currently, U.K. 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 by Unisys on behalf of the police, is optimized 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 U.K. 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.

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