This means that the iPhone running Alert & Respond and networked to other devices becomes an incredibly powerful situational awareness tool in the hands of a police officer. Kahn said the real game changer is that "an officer in the field is able to look at his cell phone and see where other officers are." Toure demonstrated this when he became an unintentional and unlikely participant in the demo. "This bicyclist was really playing the role of an officer when he took my phone," Kahn said.
Dispatchers and administrators can also use the software to instantly add new officers’ computers and mobile phones to its network. Using the San Francisco incident as an example, Kahn said he could have used a device running the software and sent the San Francisco Police Department an e-mail or a text message with a link. Clicking on the link would have granted them immediate access to see Toure's riding through the Bay City streets, as well as share messages, pictures, and locations with anyone else in the network.
Slated for release in October, Covia Labs' Alert & Respond will be marketed to police as a way to establish both interoperable communications and situational awareness in the palm of an officer's hand without new computer servers. This was the original goal of Kahn's when he started Covia Labs in 2008 after he saw police and firefighters pull out their cell phones to communicate with each other during an emergency when their walkie-talkies failed.
The company is currently negotiating a pilot program in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where each police officer will receive an iPhone with Covia Labs' software system running on their phones and command center computers. "The pilot will demonstrate that low-cost, popular, commercial mobile phones such as iPhone, Android and Windows Mobile phones, can be used to add blue force tracking and rich-media messaging to their communications capabilities," said Dan Illowsky, Covia Labs' chief technology officer.
Kahn believes such technology could be a game changer for how police and the public partner against crime. And Toure unwittingly helped prove it, he said: "If you give police timely and actionable information, they want to act on it."
♦ Photo by Covia Labs