All Levine had to do was collect security partners’ e-mail addresses or smartphone numbers and then push out an invitation for them to join. “That was the easiest piece of the operation,” he says. “We had done a lot of logistics up front regarding the visit. So the [planning] was much more difficult than rolling out the technology.”
Once connected, the first preventers had a powerful multimedia communications tool in their hands. Levine’s officers snapped digital photos of the protesters and quickly sent them to operation participants. “We were able to see that photo virtually instantaneously, and it was geo-tagged so we were able to see with GPS-accuracy where that photo was taken,” he says. “We had an excellent idea of the number of protesters, what their message was, and their exact location.”
This was a dramatic upgrade from the past when officers would take photos of protests with their patrol cameras and then have to find a computer, upload the pictures, and distribute them to their colleagues via e-mail.
The photos gave the operations center the ability to quickly assess the mood of the crowd, and that allowed Levine to fine- tune the level of security, as warranted, to save taxpayer money. For example, Levine had crowd control units on standby. “We weren’t going to have a situation that developed into a riot like we had in a previous visit,” he says. However, once photos of the protesters convinced Levine that the protests would be peaceful, he “was able to save my agency thousands and thousands of dollars by releasing the crowd control unit early,” he says.
On top of making interoperable communications easy and cost-effective, Covia’s software showcased other capabilities valuable to security and first responders. For example, Alert and Respond gave Levine the ability to track all his officers and partners in real time during the operation using “Blue Force Tracking,” which leverages the phone’s GPS to display “friendlies” on a virtual map for the incident commander.
“In the past, we would have to ask people individually where they were,” explains Levine. “Obviously if they moved, we would have no knowledge. But having the Blue Force Tracking, we were able to monitor their exact location, virtually instantaneously.”