Police ICT Company head: Eat your cloud, cops, it's good for you

Let's put body-worn camera footage in the white'n'fluffy stuff, says Martin Wyke

A national strategy on using public cloud services is needed so British police forces can cope with the increasing weight of unstructured data storage, the head of the Police ICT Company has said.

Martin Wyke, head of the body, outlined storage as a key challenge for police because of the explosion of unstructured data, through video and CCTV as well as data sent and collected from peoples' phones.

"We need a common way to not only store that data, but access, retrieve and archive it," he said.

The uptake of body worn video (BWV) cameras will also pose a challenge to storage, with as many as 59,000 devices expected to be in use by the end of 2016/17.

Fears have been raised around the security of storing BMV data, and the extent to which sensitive information ought to be held in the public cloud.

However, some public sector organisations are beginning to seriously consider a move to the public cloud, with Amazon and Microsoft poised to open data centres on Blighty's shores.

Wyke said: "I think there are some myths and legends that need to be dispelled. There is a view that the local chief constable is responsible for the data at source and therefore they need to hold it locally to carry that accountability.

"Well, actually, in many ways the cloud can be safer than having it in a local data centre, which might for example be on a flood plain, or doesn’t have the right security or environment."

Wyke has previously questioned the need for each force to have its own dedicated data centre. He said: "We are looking at how each force is storing that data.. there are big cost savings as well as business efficiencies."

The company is currently planning a national IT strategy, which it hopes to release early next year, according to Wyke: "We need much more clarity about what should be done locally, regionally and nationally."

He said the strategy will bring a sense of cohesion to forces who will be able to measure their current plans against the national goal and put appropriate migration strategies in place.

Along with the public cloud it will also look at the use of open source, he told The Register: "Some police already are already using cloud and trialling Azure and AWS. But we want a strategic solution we can all gravitate toward."

The Police ICT Company is not the first body to attempt to break down forces' siloed IT – something the IT side of the former National Police Improvement Agency also aimed to do.

But Wyke believes the increase in internet-based crime necessitates more joined up systems. "Two chief constables told me recently that at least 50 per cent of their crime internet-based: things like fraud, people searching out the vulnerable online, email intercepts. That was quite an eye opening stat."

Greater collaboration of technology is needed as crime becomes more "borderless", he said.

The Police ICT Company is also in the process of trying to consolidate software licenses across forces. It recently signed a deal with Adobe to slash licensing costs by 60 per cent below the current deal negotiated by government procurement body the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).

So far 25 forces have signed up to that deal, which is open to all 43 forces if they choose to use it.

Wyke says the force is currently working with Oracle to ink a similar deal – although he acknowledges that is a “more complex basket” given the depth and breadth of the Oracle estate. ®

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