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Public Safety Now: Achieving multi-agency collaboration during challenging times

JW: Hi and thanks for tuning in to Public Safety now on Hexagon Radio. I’m your host John Whitehead, vice president of sales for US Public Safety here at Hexagon’s Safety & Infrastructure division. You know, during this time of the Coronavirus and COVID-19 a lot of agencies are dealing with new and better ways of dispatching incidents and getting out to the scene. One of the things we wanted to talk about today is the multi-agency collaboration, especially with all the regionalisation going on, sharing of data, making sure that others are knowing what’s going on and also getting assistance to be able to respond to the influx of calls that may be happening. No time since 9/11 has multi-agency collaboration been thrown into a test like we are today. So, with that topic in mind we’ve actually brought in someone. I’ve got Pete Prater on the line here. He’s the country manager for Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure in the UK. Pete, welcome. I’ll let you go ahead and introduce yourself and give a little bit about your background.

PP:  Thanks, John. It’s a pleasure to be here with you guys on the Hexagon Radio. I only joined Hexagon 2 and a halfyears ago. Prior to that I was working in other supplier agencies in the UK public safety environment. So, my experience in critical communications command and control goes back some 38 years now. Although, I know I don’t look old enough for that. 15 years in the British army where I was looking after mobile and fixed communication centres.  12 years as an independent consultant of public safety and security agencies here in the UK and, indeed, abroad as well and throughout the world, and the last 11 years as a supplier. Beyond that, in my sort of voluntary capacity like we all have to do, 25 years as a member of British APCO, for which I’m also a life member, and three years ago I founded the International Critical Control Rooms Alliance, which is an alliance formed to allow critical control room managers to come together and share their collaborative views on life, and they all have the same problems, and find out how other people work and how they overcome problems. So, that’s me two and a half years here a Hexagon.

JW: That’s great, and to that comment, that’s why I love podcasts: we all look awesome on podcasts, so I can definitely say that with assurance that’s for sure. So, Pete, you got a pretty good background here. I’m guessing during that time you’ve had some incidents where you’ve had to understand why multi-agency collaboration is so important, yeah?

PP:  Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s really only come to the UK in maybe the last 15 to 20 years in a big way. And still today it’s coming off of the touch line, you could argue, to become mainstream. But collaboration is a fantastic ideal, you’ve just got to get there and it’s a lot of hard work to get there. But you know if you can achieve collaboration, then there’s many, many benefits and rewards of doing so. Just to name a few: the sharing of knowledge amongst organisations, best practice, increase in potential for innovation, maximise return on your investment, financial savings and better use of these existing resources, appropriately manage product roadmaps, stronger voices, better coordination activities. I could go on. There’s many, many benefits to collaboration, but it’s not easy. Takes a lot to get there.

JW: Yeah, you know, you talked a little bit about the time. I remember here in this world of the emergency services, here in the US, Homeland Security after 9/11 was built. So, the Department of Homeland Security came in, and then President Bush put into effect, I believe it was March time frame, I think it was 2004 if memory serves me correctly. Basically, asking for some type of incident management structure,. wher,e instead of just having random people coming in agencies, coming in a system. This is where NIMS, as we call it here, was put into place. So, the National Incident Management System was put into place, and I know that since 2004-2005 time frame, agencies have adopted this standard. And the nice part about it is I think that we’re going to see how well this has worked. Some of the largest that we’ve had since then, hurricanes, wildland fires, multiple natural disasters and now all of a sudden, the coronavirus is testing this theory and you know what, getting good multi-agency collaboration there’s some huge benefits to that.

PP:  Yeah, you’re absolutely right, John. And I’m glad you mention 9/11 in this regard. What often takes something to make things happen, and in my experience that is totally around things like disasters, terrorism, funding. So much was made of things like the tsunami and 9/11 and here in the UK we had the King’s Cross underground fire many years ago, the Soham murders, London bombings and the riots. These are all drivers for change, and for some time people will talk about “gosh, we should be doing this differently” and “why isn’t one agency talking to another either horizontally or vertically.” And before you know it. everyone’s talking about collaboration, and then it goes quiet for a while. Perhaps that’s the same in the US.

JW: Yep, I think you’re right. Years ago, I was a volunteer firefighter since the early 80s, and during that time we used to call it ICS, Incident Command System. When you got on the scene of a large fire, let’s say you had an incident commander, everyone new to check-in.

There you were put in a different stage in categories. You have different areas of the same that you were given to, and everyone knew who was in command, and everyone kind of followed that. And what I liked about the NIMS structure was and you know some of this collaboration were talking about is the ability to expand that out to where now we’ve got this structure that’s not just for the on-scene personnel but it’s actually just a set of standards and it’s a set of items that people can start doing some pre-planning with and really get in tune with how they are going to work together. I think to your point it always comes to light when there’s a large-scale incident. Everybody’s all about the multi-agency collaboration whenever the large-scale incident’s here. But you know what, it’s interesting right now with the coronavirus going on and this pandemic that we’re dealing with. It’s the small incidents, but they add up to become a large incident, I guess if you will.

PP:  Yeah, no, I would agree with that. Obviously, what we’re saying here in the UK is pretty much the same as the rest of the world is seeing. Subtly different approaches in different parts of the world, but the overwhelming thing is stay indoors and keep out of everybody else’s way. And this is okay for many people, but not for these critical workers who are keeping going and keeping us safe. Particularly here in the UK, we are already seeing an influx of work into safety and infrastructure from our ambulance customers, particularly. They are now being told to respond in a certain way and bring in new functionality to support the COVID situation. And this is something that’s taking us a bit by surprise, but we are reacting well to that. And again, it’s not just the ambulance, but the fire and the police are all saying in their own way different impacts on the way they’re having to do their business and also different business coming through. It’s definitely something that is starting to have an impact here as well.

JW:  No, it is. I guess my thought is, and again being an emergency service person similar to yourself right, you’ve been in business a long time, I guess I just assumed that this is pretty much a common-sense approach. I just assumed everyone was doing it. Can you talk to that piece?

PP: That’s not necessarily the case. Back in 1999, I was an independent consultant and I was commissioned to do a piece of work at that time by a UK ambulance trust that was thinking about collaboration. But it wanted some evidence as to what was going on out there, so they commissioned me to do this report on international collaboration experience. So, quite handy for today’s interview, frankly. But I wrote to a number of people I knew in the U.S. and Canada, Australia and in the UK just to try and get an understanding of what’s going on. I got to say, and it’s not easy coming from a Brit to tell you this, but at that time the US were well ahead of us in terms of their collaborative experiences. What I learned from the likes of Fairfax County, Orange County, and Bellevue in Washington you’ve got significant experience dating back to at least the 70’s, possibly earlier than that, but certainly to the 70s, of working together in outsource PSAP services looking after multiple police, fire and EMS departments in one place. In my particular experience, I actually went and worked in Bellevue, Washington for a little while. I think north of Seattle, if I remember correctly. 10 fire departments and two police departments that they were servicing together. So, you know, the U.S. has had some good experience of this multi-agency, certainly at the PSAP level for many, many years. The UK, at that time, very limited and ad hoc in nature. However, we did start to get a little more interested in this. The UK government came forward with a thing they called the “invest to save budget.” They brought this forward in the late 90s and said look, surely, there’s some benefits in terms of savings, if nothing else, by working together. And that lead to three examples, one of which Hexagon was involved in And it was Intergraph guys at the time. We had Gloucestershire County and Cleveland counties all looking at how their emergency services could work more closely together at that time. Not great examples, not great outcomes in each case, but I guess they learned some lessons. And then similarly across the rest of the world what was the story? Well, it’s kind of similar to the UK. Certainly, across Northwest Europe and Scandinavia, but in the rest of the world outside of Europe, no real evidence to speak of in terms of this multi-agency collaboration, and I think that remains the case in many ways today.

JW: Even here within the U.S., and I can give you that side of the house in perspective. As forward thinking, and thank you for that compliment, I think that the U.S. was, it was interesting to me, and, again, I said that my assumptions were isn’t this just common sense and some of the reasons why that is because the agency that I was with we were a multi-agency organisation. Our 911 system here at the county, for example we had 12 fire departments, five EMS, five police departments, plus the sheriff, all collaborating together under one roof at our 911. So, we were the primary PSAP. There were several small municipalities they kept their own dispatchers and police force, but for the majority of the county that I’m in it’s been working in collaboration since the early 90s. So, to me, it was kind of just common sense but as I go around the U.S. there are a lot of agencies that are still single domain agencies.

PP: Yeah, and that’s a great shame. We’ve already outlined here in this interview some of the reasons why collaboration is much stronger. Mutual support is another one, prevention of complacency, prevention of surprises, greater transparency. Lots and lots of reasons for this being a good idea, but, you know what, it’s not just common sense. Also, these days there are formal approaches you can take which encourage collaboration. I think a lot of people make a lot of money out of this sometimes. They go around, they find best practice, they put it together under one umbrella and call it something and it sticks. And this has happened in the UK. A bunch of people here got together and worked out that collaboration was a good idea, and they wanted to put some structure around that to allow us the opportunity to really study it in some depth and consider how best it ought to be achieved. So, we came up with a thing we called at the time the BS11000. That’s the British Standard 11,000. And that’s since become the International Standards Organisation ISO44001. So, if you want to know anything about collaboration on a practical how do you do it level, go and see ISO44001. It’s pretty hard going reading-wise, but it’s got some great diagrams in there and really does tell you that to become collaborative in style takes a lot of work and a lot of time and that’s just before you even work out who it is you even want to and should collaborate with. So, there are processes and methodologies out there to help us collaborate.

JW: Yeah, and I’m looking at the BS11000. I guess that’s an octagon here and how they lay that out it’s interesting how they all kind of fit together globally. You know, everyone’s got their different spin on the different ways that they lay it out, but at the end the foundation appears to be the same, right? It’s all about awareness and doing internal assessments, making sure that you’ve got roles and responsibilities laid out. Working together from a technology point of view, making sure data is being shared and that everyone’s kind of in the know as they or before they respond. And then, of course, how do you exit that strategy? How do you begin the incident, but also how do you end the incident? And having all that laid out to me is what I’ll say is basic pre-planning, but, gosh, it really comes in handy whenever it’s needed and it starts happening out there in the world.

PP: Yeah, you’re right. And you’ve drawn attention to this BS11000 octagon. And it’s incredible because the first four segments of this eight-piece octagon here talk about awareness and knowledge and internal assessment and partner selection. Now, all of those components of this octagon are being done by the individual organisation. So, let’s say for example, Hexagon wanted to get into collaboration with somebody. They’d have a period of awareness raising where they’d say, ”Well, this collaboration sounds like a good idea, what would be the benefits to Hexagon from this?” So, that’s raising the awareness. And then the knowledge is all around why it’s a good idea. Internal assessment is what’s going to change in Hexagon to allow us to become more collaborative. And finally, partner selection. You eventually get around to saying, ”Well, who are the right partners?” Now, they could be intra Hexagon or they could be between Hexagon and its suppliers, Hexagon and its customers. And the same goes for, for example PSAP in Florida maybe talking to its suppliers or a PSAP in Florida talking to a PSAP next door to it. So, this is the way collaboration is evolving. And then the final four segments of the octagon working together: value creation, staying together and exit strategy. It’s just saying, “Ok, well, if we’re going to come together, what’s the agenda, what’s the value we create by being together in a collaborative relationship?” And it could be information sharing; it could be enhanced security; it could be 101 different things. And this is why it’s a great thing for Hexagon to be talking about this because I strongly believe Hexagon as a collaborator should understand why it’s doing it and how it’s going to work more closely with those organisations it chooses to select.

JW:  Yeah, it’s definitely a great foundation, and it gives a blueprint, if you will, for setting this up. And, again, as I said, at least here in the U.S., it sounds like there’s other places around the world that this is not common and this is not something that’s been grasped. And I think especially during this crisis that we’re in agencies are going to come out of the other end and, I hope, understand the importance of working together, of collaborating and having some type of set up to where, you know, from a dispatch point of view or even field officers, you’re not relaying on your telephone. When I get an incident I’m not pushing it out to my neighboring agency. I’m able to handle with technology, I’m able to reduce speed. I know that you mentioned Fairfax, Virginia. They’ve been a long-time customer of ours. And one of the things they talked about  in that region was, I’ll call it a CAD-to-CAD, we can keep away from the special names that they’ve called it, but we’ll just say a CAD-to-CAD set up. One of the managers there told us that, historically speaking, they would get a call in and they needed mutual aid assistance nearby. It would take about a minute and 40 seconds to pick up the phone, enter the information, get someone on the other line, repeat that information to them, have them enter it into their system and then respond accordingly. So, you got 1:40 for every time that you need that to happen. Technology came in and it connected that up and it brought that down. Automation brought that down to 15 seconds. That is huge whenever you’re talking a large-scale incident when the phones are going off and you got multiple people calling and you don’t have time to be a 1:40 on a call.

PP: John, you know as well as I do in these kinds of operations every second counts and you can’t afford to have that. And that’s a great example of a driver for change and how systems should be able to overcome that. What I particularly loved when I went to Bellevue was the fact that they, and again everywhere is different, everyone’s got a slightly different model, but in Bellevue what I really loved was the use of common call-takers to take all the different types of calls that that a PSAP had to deal with. Yeah, ok, their separate dispatch but at least they were able to not have to transfer information in the way you just described. But you know there’s different models. When I talked about that invest to save budget there were three different models that emerged from that. But I mean these different models can come with anything. You can add a whole load yourself, but things like hey you know we can share the same site. Alright, how about sharing the same building? Eh, ok. The same floor of a building? Maybe we could share our operators. As I’ve just eluded to call-taking seems to be the one that is most simple but I don’t think it’s beyond the wit of man to work out that you could do it in dispatch as well if you’re so trained and got the right kit. And then, of course, you start getting to the shared technology. And perhaps these are the benefits of collaboration. Is to be able to actually procure something that you can all share together. I mean, that’s got to help in terms of reducing cost at the end of the day.

JW: Yeah, you’re right. I’ll tell you I’ve seen a lot of this in action. DuPage County, Illinois, is one of our customers that went live here over the last several months. And I’ve talked about them before, and the reason is because of what they did up there. So, they’re west of Chicago, in Illinois, to kind of put some geography there in your mind. It is a large county and large region, and you’re talking in mid 30s agencies around this area that were individual dispatch centres or maybe a few of them had joined up, but they brought all of those together. Now they’ve got them in two separate dispatch set-ups and it is working awesome. They’ve had several small incidents compared to these large ones like we’ve been talking but they were pretty good-sized incidents and during that time they have found that value on just having people at the same site, within the same building. Understanding that whether they share operators or not, I’ll leave that to the politics of each agency, but understanding that when a call comes in the time that you’re saving forwarding that on or picking up that phone and having to verbally transfer information, there is always a loss. Whether it’s time or information, there is always a loss. And I think what they’re finding, as well as many others, is that this multi-agency collaboration is really kicking it to where they can do things quicker and better. And really public safety is the one that wins in that.

PP: Absolutely right. And you mentioned politics there earlier. It’s such an interesting environment because you say to yourself if this is so obvious, this collaboration, why aren’t we all doing it? What’s the problems? So, at that point, you start asking yourself the questions around these issues, these barriers to collaboration. The experience that I’ve found was that, you know, this can come down to many many different things, but at the moment, we have to cut through those. We have to cut through those in this time of international disaster really with COVID. You know, we need disaster recovery. We need business continuity. We need resilience in these call-taking environments and dispatch environments and you know, if we are not collaborating, people are going to assume fine. More and more of them sort of have to take time off that they’re short, but you know, the barriers, they’re big things. I mean, they’re real things, but they are big things that can be overcome. Things like culture. Police working with fire, well, ok, you know, here in the UK we have numerous stories, numerous evidences of the way that fire, police and ambulance are very, very different in their attitudes to life and the way they approach their work, their historical backgrounds and things and that all helps, or doesn’t help, sorry. Politics, again, is a major player here. Our government tends to be hesitant about mandating things on the local level for fear of perhaps getting it wrong. So, government hesitancy is a real problem in mandating people to do this collaboration.

JW: I’ll tell you where I find, I’ve talked to several directors that have successfully done this, and you know, the one thing they keep coming back, and it’s such a simple term, it’s communication. They start with, “just start talking.” Get the chiefs into the room, get the executive, the city counsels, the county counsels, get them in the board and just start talking this out. Because, what they’re going to find is, I always say this word and I dread saying this word because I just see people cringing or getting upset, but, you know what, people want to keep their kingdoms. They have their control, right?

PP: You’re talking my language, John. So, I remember, again I go back to that survey I did at the end of the 90s, and I remember it was a U.S. colleague. I can’t remember which one, but anyway, he said, you know, because one of the questions I raised was, “What’s the ways you can overcome this?” He said the biggest thing to overcome this is having a champion, local level, more for the outcome and the citizen rather than their own job. And I thought, you know what, you can absolutely see it because you start amalgamating things. Somebody somewhere is going to lose a job, probably, and what you need is somebody who says you know what, I don’t care, it’s for the greater good.

JW: Yeah, and you know, it’s interesting because I’ve broached that same topic, right? Because people are afraid of, well, if I go into a multi-agency environment, what’s going to happen to my people, what’s going to happen to my personnel? And you know what, I guess at the surface level you could say, yeah there’s going to be some savings and you could have some people that do end up exiting. But you know what I’m finding though, Pete, is they don’t. What they end up doing is they start utilising those resources internally where they need them. So, for example, you might have an IT person on a single agency dispatch centre may have an IT person. That IT person is not just working the CAD system and the radios and everything for that dispatch centre, but they’re also doing a lot of other work around that department. And what we’re finding is that department merges with another, and they have a multi-agency environment. Their dispatchers can move over, and now those dispatchers kind of gain a little more experience because now they’re doing a few extra duties on shift. The IT.. personnel, though, they don’t lose their job. They’re actually utilized better in that single agency, and I’ll say to keep the lights on, if you will, but to me, it is such a great use of resources because it really comes down to that. I’m not so much worried about who is going to lose their job. I’m worried about everyone’s working right now, we’ve said this before, with doing more things with less personnel or less budget, and now those people can be utilized where needed when they’re not dealing with the extra, I’ll say, burden of trying to stay a single agency environment.

PP: Yeah, sure, no I agree with that. It’s nothing people should be frightened of as long as they’re ready for the hard work that it takes to bring it together in the first place. But, we were talking there a little bit about some of these other barriers to change and one of those, certainly here in the UK, is budgets. In particular, the way that those budgets are formed at governmental level because, you know, we have the ambulance, the fire and the police, and until recently all had separate owners within the central government. So, trying to coordinate budgets, and what have you, is a bit of a nightmare and thus was a barrier to affecting collaboration, really. Equally, and you’ve already hinted at it in this session, the security of information a lot of people would say “well we can’t possibly collaborate so closely with that agency because there is information that we hold that really they shouldn’t have.” And there was a lot of concern around that, and how that could easily leak from one to the other. But equally, and so often is the way in my experience, technology was an issue, was a barrier. I remember very much a study I did with the police force, which was a national police force back in the day, and it had many many different control rooms and the only reason it had all of these different control rooms was because of its radio systems. They were aged, and when they started talking about replacing them with a modern radio system, the opportunity arose for them to combine the lot and collaborate around that., So from going from multiple hundred control centres, they could have gone down to one if that had been the right answer for them and that was thanks to the European standard TETRA. And I’m sure you have your own APCO-25 or whatever it is in the States there, and these were the enablers of change. I guess early generation command and control systems didn’t necessarily make it easy to collaborate but that seems to be changing and certainly Hexagon has a solution to that.

JW:  Well, and that’s what we’re seeing now with this whole COVID pandemic, right? Is now all of a sudden people are realising that technology is going to be able to assist them in making some of these decisions. I mean, we’re talking to organisations that are segregating their radio room. They’re putting dispatchers in multiple rooms, some are at their backup centre, some are at their primary site. We’re hearing things like 211 or 311 and operators are working out of their house and with the invention of IP-based radios and IP telephony, cloud-based CAD systems and the list goes on and on. It’s becoming a reality to where the technology is not the issue. It really goes back to the list of what we were talking about. It’s still coming back to you’ve got to have that key stakeholder in there and that leadership who is going to be the champion that wants to start the communication, that wants to break down some of the political and financial barriers to change that culture within the organisation.

PP: Definitely, definitely. I couldn’t agree more with you. Yeah, the technology I think now is at a stage where, certainly from within Hexagon’s environment, we can underpin an awful lot of these collaborative ventures, there’s no doubt about that. So, it does come down to the desire and the approach to that organisational change. I mean, is there evidence for this? I mean yes, certainly now within the COVID-19 situation. But more widely than that this has been growing for a few years. We’ve highlighted some of the threats every time that one of these things manifests itself. We get this, “Boy, we should be collaborating much more” and “why didn’t company A have access to company B’s information?” and what have you. Things like the Smart City agenda are really driving this discussion now. Smart City was a bit of a mystical thing for a lot of people for some time. It really is climbing the ranking of most talked about subjects now. But you know, you can’t achieve Smart City without intense collaboration by all the required stakeholders in that investment, be it city-wide or whatever, John.

JW: Yeah, and you know that’s interesting, so, I had to go back and look it up but I remember an organisation and it was actually Howitt and Mackler—and this is back in 2005 they came up with this concentric circle item, if you will. So far, what you and I have been talking about is really the first responders – the fire, the police, the EMS, the dispatch centre – and how they can collaborate better. But the centrality of emergency response is what they call it, has three different levels and you mentioned the Smart City aspect of it, and right now is where I see some of this happening. For example, the first circle of responders is what we’ve been talking about – fire, police, emergency, medical, emergency management – the ones that we think about when we hear first responders. Ok, that makes sense. And then you’ve got your secondary circle, and this is where your Smart City tie in comes in. That brings in some of the public works, utilities, hospitals, public health, social services and others in that band. But now what we’re seeing and, this is really the interesting part, is again – this was built in 2005 this isn’t today’s stuff, this has been around for a while here for the last 15 years. That third circle, so now it starts bringing in private business, charities, community groups, schools. If you look right now, if you turn on any news channel, you are able to see all three layers of this that doesn’t happen unless this large-scale incident occurs. And I think what could be some light at the end of this tunnel is, we see the value of that, we all as emergency services personnel start understanding, it’s not just about getting the call-ins and 911 getting a police officer or an ambulance out to assist that person but it’s also collaborating with, “Hey, what’s going on in public health and how can I bring in the public health people into this discussion?” What about the private businesses that are turning now? I don’t know what’s going on in the UK but I’ll tell you it’s a great thing here happening in the U.S., micro brews and all of these distilleries around the U.S. are turning into hand sanitizer groups. So, we’re seeing story after story of local micro-breweries or local distillers turning their whiskey distilling into hand sanitizers and then giving that to emergency service personnel. It’s amazing to me how all three circles are working together.

PP: John, I’m going to come back on a lot of things, but I want to just bring a little bit of wit to it now. I kind of gave you one earlier but may I say from a Brit’s point of view when it comes to your distilleries out there most of them taste like hand sanitizer before this all happened.

JW: Awwww! And you know what, I knew it. I didn’t throw a soccer joke in or anything but that’s alright. I’ll let you have that.

PP:  You can scrub that one anytime you want.

JW: I need my Bud Light.

PP: But the Smart City thing, again totally right, the Smart City thing is hugely important. And I guess where did Smart City come from originally? It was the global cities all jousting with each other to become the place where people should do business. You know, come to Dubai, come to Hong Kong, come to London. These are the places where you want to come and locate your business and be successful. Ok, to have that you need to have all the infrastructure etc., etc., and underpinning all of that, John, is the Safe City piece of that. And that is why we have the big Safe City agenda that goes on in your first two circles in your concentric ring there. At the end of the day, if your city is not a safe city then you’re not going to get people to come invest in Dubai or New York or wherever it happens to be. You know, you need to have that safe city underpinning the smartness that you can then generate in the innovation that comes along on top of all that. And again, I completely agree with you it’s gone way beyond just the emergency services. We can see this here in the UK, too. We are seeing tenders and procurements not just being talked about but now actively coming to the marketplace, bringing disparate organisations together from across those first two concentric rings that you mentioned. You know why? Well, delivering proof situational awareness to the dispatch decision and follow up activity. If you don’t, as you said, if you don’t know the health situation you don’t know the roads that are closed, you don’t know the health matters, then you don’t have the complete picture of what’s going on and you’ll make the wrong decisions.

JW: You know what, you’re so right, and I’ll tell you when we say words like “Smart City or “Safe City,” I think, I’ll say historically, and I mean like just here recently historic – that conjures up immediately large infrastructures. In other words, when I hear “Smart City,” I think agencies like New York or agencies like Miami or San Diego, you know, and you mentioned a few, right – Dubai and those types. I think that’s what people think about when they start saying, “oh well they’ve got a need for that.” What I would push out is that that smart city – I’d even change the words here and say smart city or smart county can be down to the smallest organisations within the world here. Because, to your point, whether I’ve got a large utility that maybe is a multi-state utility company and bringing that data into my large city – ok, that makes total sense. But think about if I’ve got a what we call a co-op over here, small utility organisation that is running out in a rural area getting even that data brought in, getting health information coming from smaller hospitals into a smaller county. I think that’s where we’ve got to take our thought when we hear Smart City, and like I said, I’m going to coin the phrase, “Smart County” I think that’s the way we’ve got to start thinking about this because it’s not just for the New Yorks, it’s not just for the L.A.s. It really is for the small rural departments in the small rural areas as well.

PP: Yeah, I am with you on that. I’m with you. As I say, what starts often out as one idea when an initiative can be more often changed into other areas to suit differing needs, and I agree with you. The other thing that you mentioned there is about bringing these organisations together to collaborate and what’s clear to me, is, if you like turning it around to Hexagon itself, you know Hexagon doesn’t have all the other answers and probably never will in relation to this “Smart City” thing. But what we are doing is we are adopting the right technologies to underpin the opportunity to deliver these things. So, we’re adopting open technology standards, platforms that underpin the whole portfolio. Equally, I think we have recognised it’s not Hexagon only that needs this but by having these open standards we are opening ourselves up to likeminded organisations to if you like, form an ecosystem approach to solving those customers’ needs. The other thing I sense that we’re doing with our new portfolio in safety is we are designing in multi-agency from the outset and I think that’s a really, really important thing.

JW: I agree, and I think that to your point, Hexagon has provided these tools to be able to connect a lot of these in but there are so many good vendors out there that we work with that bring in – and I know it’s the buzzword – but the Internet of Things. And whether it’s organisations like RapidSOS who’s bringing in location information from cell phones, all of these things work together to provide, really, a holistic picture of the incident. Give that information well, now you start bringing in the Safe City information into the organisation. Now I am sitting there as a dispatcher and not only do I understand what type of incidents I have going on within my territory, but I may also understand, you know, where is the virus spreading to, where is the largest concentration, where are utilities up and running, where are they down, where’s gas lines. All of this information gives me really a big picture and it’s bringing in though that sensory data and all of those images from – not just Hexagon products – but from all across the area and all across the region.

PP: Yeah, absolutely right, and this is a particular opportunity for Hexagon right across its global reach. You know, this is not something that is necessarily going to just come from headquarters, this is something that’s going to have to come from the local level. Here in the UK, we’ve opened up the doors and we’ve invited niche suppliers to come in and have a discussion because, of course, you know, a lot of these niche suppliers are local-level-only, but required by our customers. One came to us just the other day. They’ve taken the time to produce an application which is concerned with dementia and missing persons and you know this isn’t the sort of organisation that is going to be doing the same business in Hong Kong or Dubai, but you know, we need to able to have the facility here at local level to welcome these guys in and explain to them how they can interact more closely with Hexagon and then go to the market with that additional value add.

JW: Yeah, and you know especially during this time I keep looking ahead and I keep trying to figure out what type of lessons learned are we going to have during this global crisis that we’re in right now. Unlike some of the massshooting incidents or the terrorist attacks that’s maybe happened in the UK, the 9/11 incident, some of the wildland fires, whether they’re out on our West coast or in Australia. You could look at those as single events that affect that one locale or that country if you have to expand out a little bit. I think what we’re dealing with right now is this global response that has occurred here recently over the last several weeks has been really interesting because at the end of this there’s going to be data that we’re going to be able to share. Not just how did cities within the U.S. handle it but also how did the country as a whole, how did Canada, how did the UK, how did Asia, and all of the different things are going to be able to combine to really make us stronger, as we move into – heh, cause we always say it – there will be something else after this, just don’t know when, as we move into that next big thing I think we’re going to be better and I think it’s going to come out to where we’re all better for sharing that information.

PP: I couldn’t agree more. It is a time of learning. It’s probably the first truly global incident of note. Most people compare it to the end of WWII. But certainly, it’s a long, long time since anything like this has been faced by the globe, and I’m just really, really proud to be a part of Hexagon and delivering solutions that can help that and support that. For me, it is genuinely exciting to be working in public safety and security. It’s lovely that Hexagon’s got its new safety portfolio. We’ve got to get that out there. We’ve got to make it available to these people. We, here in UK, we’ve just been awarded a contract to supply the HxGN OnCall through London’s Metropolitan Police. That’s the largest police force in the UK and very well-known across the globe, as you probably appreciate. And, undoubtedly, in the years ahead, Hexagon will support London in its widened desire for safety and sustainability and because it wants to be the best city in the world to do business. So, you know, this is the power of collaboration and also the demand that underpins it. It’s there, and I think it’s there to stay and maybe this time around the governments will mandate much more collaborative behavior.

JW: Yeah, Pete, you know we talked about some exciting items here. And I think you’re right, it is an exciting time for public safety. Some of the models you’ve talked about to consider whether it’s at the same site, the same building, sharing of technology. We’ve talked a little bit about the barriers and breaking down some of the politics in that culture, one of the areas that I would also add to that list and I think that it’s important, is once you get that commitment and once you’re putting this in and you’re getting that collaboration, it really is about that consistency of use. And one of the things that I know from my time in emergency services is that it’s got to be muscle memory. Whether it’s an officer pulling a gun or it’s a dispatcher entering an incident or a fire personnel understanding what to do on a scene of a fire, it’s got to just be a muscle memory. I don’t have time to pull a manual, I don’t have time to learn something new, and what that means to me is that we got to start using that today. We’ve got to start using this on the smaller items, so that when it comes time for the bigger events and the bigger incidents it’s just muscle memory and it’s just a part of our everyday world.

PP: I agree and what I really, really like about what I’m hearing about the HxGN Connect element of the portfolio going forward is the innovative ways we wish to offer this to the marketplace to help these purchasers to overcome some of those barriers we’ve highlighted previously. The idea of software as a service, pay as you go, these kinds of things, these are the things we have to get as suppliers. We have to recognise that maybe this is the way forward. These organisations they want or they need to be constantly evolving in their functionality and features that they have from Hexagon, and anything we can do to allow that constant evolution to flow, that’s going to be a great thing. And I think that what I’m seeing from OnCall and Connect, these are definitely the way forward and yeah, exciting times.

JW: For sure. Well, Pete, thank you very much. Again, I want to give a big thank you to our guest Pete Prater, the UK country manager here at Hexagon. To hear additional episodes or learn more, visit us at HxGNSpotlight.com, and thanks for tuning in.