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Q&A with Pat Kiernan, Director of Marketing of Nice Systems
Q: NICE has been a major player in the public safety and security field for many years. Can you briefly describe its activities and philosophy?
A: NICE is organized in two different divisions, one of which addresses the enterprise market, and includes recording and workforce optimization, and the other which addresses security and public safety. In more than a decade of working with and observing customers, NICE has found five key steps that successful organizations employ to improve security operations. We have designed our solutions around this proven, methodical approach to managing security. The goal of NICE’s security solutions is to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time, at each stage in this security cycle – so security teams can rapidly detect and verify threats, make intelligent and informed decisions, mobilize resources to respond to incidents, streamline investigations, and ultimately improve security operations.
Our suite of security solutions – including intelligent video surveillance, mission-critical communications recording, and multimedia incident information management technology – all work together at various stages of the incident lifecycle to help organizations better detect, verify, respond to, investigate and resolve incidents.
Q: What are your main markets and competitors?
A: We are actually in many market segments: gaming, educational institutions (particularly colleges and universities), transportation (airports and public transit), utilities and critical infrastructures (for protection of buildings, power plants, etc.), corrections and public safety (911, police and fire departments, city center video systems, etc).
In the video market, we face competition from companies like Genetech and Verint; in the audio recording market, Verint and Cybertech. We have a dominant share of the 911 market.
Q: NICE has already implemented a number of public safety platforms and is involved in major projects in the US in this field. At this time in history, what is your analysis of the public safety market?
A: We are facing an increasingly complex market. Funding is obviously a major and complicated issue for local communities and agencies, especially as ARRA is put in place, and stimulus funding is available through a variety of federal programs. As Homeland Security has evolved to include major disasters and threats as well as terrorism, some federal financing has switched from the Justice Department to DHS. The initial scope of the stimulus plan has been enlarged to encompass job creation, and that in turn creates new hurdles for local governments and agencies in grant writing.
Procurement is another complex issue, with multiple stakeholders in any new or improved public safety system. Also interoperability of systems, which is becoming a major requirement, is limited by the absence of rigorous standards for the multiple touch points involved (video, sensors, smoke detectors, fire alarms, etc.). There is definitely a need for sharing good practices for future deployments.
Q: You have just announced a major new deployment for the city of San Jose (CA) police department, with NICE Inform. What was the main motivation behind the project?
A: NICE’s participation is actually part of a complete retrofit of the communications center, including a new CAD system, telephone system, recording system, etc. Their recording system was old and they wanted to improve performance. They handle around 1 million calls per year for both 911 and 311.
The goal is to implement a new platform that could reliably capture those calls and the radio traffic between officers and dispatch; ensure zero down-time in recording capabilities and storage; and prepare for two other major future issues: IP audio (trunk radio) which they plan to implement over the next couple of years, and Next Generation 911.
Q: Does this new platform involve new rules and policies for the police department?
A: Each police department has its own policies for recording and records keeping, and our platform manages according to those rules. NICE Inform allows records to be deleted once their defined hold-date has passed. Our clients provide the servers, we provide complete storage management that enables records to be maintained on recorders and on storage devices.
Q: Your solutions integrate videos, 911 call management, databases of mugshots and so forth?
A: Information that goes to the custodian of records for a specific incident can come from various sources: classic ones like 911 recordings or emerging sources such as video streams for cities equipped with city shield programs, and also now from citizens with cell phones who send text messages and capture video clips, or from other less conventional sources. The custodian of records – when required by law enforcement, prosecution attorneys or defense attorneys – has to provide copies of this evidence, by sifting through different sources of information in different places and copying it one by one. Our platform integrates all of these elements into one incident folder, where they can be reviewed on a synchronized basis, as they occurred in real-time, thus giving perspective of the actual sequence of events.
Q: This presents not only qualitative improvement but also quantitative and tangible efficiency benefits.
A: Exactly. The demands on the custodian of records are becoming more and more complex, both from a legal standpoint and from a technical standpoint. The demand for 911 recordings that involve specific types of incidents (domestic violence, for example) has increased, and the variety of information sources that need to be processed is increasing. Even when the multimedia incident information management system is not used to its fullest potential, we have seen great results in our benchmark case studies in terms of efficiency. Monterey County in California, for one, indicates a 75% productivity improvement in their processing of reproduction requests.
Q: How would you measure your results against the expected outcomes, the challenges and the potential shortcomings?
A: It is a bit early to tell in any reliable manner. In the case of San Jose, the deployment went very smoothly, on schedule, and we are entering the training phase for their teams. Their old system is still running in parallel to the new platform during that phase.
Q: No bumps on the road, then?
A: None that we can think of. If any, they would come early in the process. San Jose PD is almost a text-book example of what to do when you define such a project. Their due diligence was very thorough, lasting over about three years. They interviewed everyone – vendors and customers – before making their decision. This is the critical process that should be followed by all agencies: do your homework, make sure you work with a vendor that provides a complete needs analysis. Ask for references and contact each and every one of them. When you make your decision, take into account adaptability for future needs like Next Gen 911, and make sure your vendor is well positioned for that, has continuing R&D program, and is continuing to invest in their products for such capabilities as Trunk radio traffic, next-gen 911.
Q: Is there any standard in process for this?
A: Yes, NENA (National Emergency Number Association) has taken the lead on developing Next Gen 911 standards, it is in the works.
Q: Beyond San Jose, how important in NICE Inform in NICE’s overall activity?
A: San Jose is not the first city to implement NICE Inform. NICE Inform has been deployed in many other cities and counties since 2007. We are part of the biggest 911 system in the world with the NYPD. The NYPD processes close to a million calls a month and receives tens of thousands of requests for reproductions each year. We also have a deployment commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration for 850 of their sites. So we are involved in many large scale projects.
The NICE Inform platform differentiates us from our competitors, as a platform for the future that brings benefits today; it’s the only platform capable of fusing voice recordings, surveillance video and multimedia incident information from various public safety sub-systems into a common application and interface.
Q: NICE was originally involved mostly in commercial call centers, I believe. What brought NICE to be a major player in the public safety field?
A: Actually, when NICE was founded in 1986, it was around surveillance solutions for the military. So, with roots in surveillance, we have really come full circle in the security sector! In recording we have grown our capabilities and customer base with the acquisitions of Dictaphone and Thales Contact Systems.
We’ve also grown organically and stayed at the forefront of security technology by keeping a step ahead of industry trends and investing heavily in R&D. Our unique approach to managing security (aka the “security cycle” ) has galvanized our reputation as a leader in the security space. Through our solutions, NICE is able to address an organization’s complete security needs, from the time an incident if first detected to the time it is fully investigated.
We provide complete life-cycle support for all phases of customer projects – from the initial discovery phase through post implementation evaluation. Our ability to successfully implement complex projects time and time again is another factor that makes us a major player in the security field. We have more than 5,000 security and public safety installations worldwide, and our solutions are used by 9 out of 10 of the top U.S. cities.
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