‘Pay as you go’ for police technology?

How you pay is likely to be the next trend to look out for in police technology investment, with a long-term shift away from capital expenditure predicted by Police Market Report.

Dec 14, 2016
By Paul Jacques

How you pay is likely to be the next trend to look out for in police technology investment, with a long-term shift away from capital expenditure predicted by Police Market Report.

John Rowland, editor of the monthly subscriber-only bulletin that specialises in police information and communications technology, said the move away from capital expenditure was touched on by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in its latest round of PEEL assessments.

“It notes current investments are largely paid for out of diminishing reserves. They’re expected to run down by 2020, the end of the present planning cycle for most forces,” he said.

The HMIC report said most forces still plan to make savings this financial year, “mainly continuing previous change programmes, and have made sensible mid-term financial provisions, meaning we are less concerned about the potential continued financial future of forces than we were in 2015”.

Mr Rowland said the software as a service (SAAS) model, where you pay for what you use, is a well-established alternative.

“There’s around 80 specific applications available using the SAAS delivery option, but its profile is still relatively low in policing, partly due to funding and historic buying patterns,” he added.

“However, if the downward trend in capital expenditure continues this will change.

“Potential savings will be a further driver. Take body-worn video. Evidence is emerging of hefty savings achieved with remote storage of bodycam digital footage.”

Mr Rowland believes the rollout of the new Emergency Services Network could well be the “next evolutionary step forward for pay as you go”.

“Funding the transition is still unclear,” he said. “Forces do not yet know exactly what central resources will be made available and how much new equipment will cost, despite questions from MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee.”

Mr Rowland says the SAAS model is also appealing if core IT departmental staffing is being cut and legacy systems replaced.

“The Metropolitan Police Service is down from 800 to 100 in its technology department. It’s a route they’ve chosen; to outsource and at the same time transform themselves into an intelligent client,” he said.

“Things may be less clear cut with other organisations. But the time-saving premium offered by a service provider could tip the balance, especially if there’s departmental vacancies which are hard to fill.”

Mr Rowland says the funding situation is further complicated by Home Office competitions such as the Police Transformation Fund, which mean less capital expenditure.

The latest round of Transformation funding, for example, saw more than £26 million awarded to support 28 policing projects, with many of the successful bids focusing on technology and digital transformation.

Among the awards, £2.3 million will support a series of bids developed by the Police ICT Company and the Police Technology Council to benefit all forces once implemented – this includes cloud services to access local, regional and national information, delivering a more efficient and effective service.

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