There are still plenty of questions yet to be answered about the Microsoft Advanced Patrol Platform program and the recently-unveiled 2015 Ford Police Interceptor SUV, but one thing is clear. Partners will play an important role in the program, and there will likely be plenty of opportunities for partners dealing in Microsoft Azure public cloud services.
The first thing to understand is that Microsoft is not going to market with a car, said Kirk Arthur, worldwide director of public safety and justice at Microsoft (and a former law enforcement professional who most recently served in the U.S. Secret Service), in an interview with CDN. That’s not the purpose of MAPP. Instead, the police cruiser is essentially a proof-of-concept car to show what can be done for law enforcement agencies using Azure to provide new services to police officers on the road and greater insight into crime patterns and video data.
Through MAPP, Microsoft hopes to enable its partners to create new opportunities for law enforcement agencies and departments, but it could also pave the way to new business in a variety of public safety and first responder organizations.
“[The car] is meant to be a thought-provoking idea for our partners that underpinning all of this is cloud — not just any cloud, but our cloud, Azure,” Arthur said.
With MAPP, Microsoft is also trying to better position itself as a secure cloud offering for government law enforcement organizations.
“Microsoft really wants to have a trusted cloud initiative. We want to talk about security. We want to talk about transparency. We want to talk about trust,” Arthur said.
It’s also about creating a more productive, efficient and safer police force.
Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, noted that details about MAPP are “pretty thin,” but it’s expected Microsoft will unveil more about the platform and related program at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference in San Diego in October.
“That said, it seems like there should be opportunities for channel partners since deploying various MAPP technologies and solutions will involve a good deal of installation/integration work,” King told CDN. Another key point in the channel’s favour is local police departments will likely turn to local solutions providers to help get the next-generation technologies they need to better enable their officers.
Microsoft first started discussing MAPP about 1.5 years ago, Arthur said. Since then, there has been a lot of interest from a variety of partners, which currently includes companies like AT&T, Getac, SecureWatch 24, Genetec, Motorola Solutions, SuperDroid Robots, Aeryon Labs, Taser, Axon Software and NC4 Street Smart. Each brings their own pieces of the total package that is the Azure-enabled 2015 Ford Police Interceptor SUV. Arthur indicated new technology partners may be added in time.
“The whole public safety community is probably 10 to 15 years behind the private side for the use of technology. A lot of systems are old and antiquated. They don’t talk to each other. There’s a whole communal interest,” Arthur said.
That’s where channel partners could play a role in the future. Although there’s a lot of cool hardware (rugged laptops, robots, drones, etc.) involved in the project, a large chunk of the opportunity is in providing services like big data analytics and cloud-based communications to keep law enforcement professionals properly informed. In time, predictive analytics could even be applied to identify hot spots of activity at different times of day so officers can better tailor their patrol patterns.
“I think five or 10 years from now it’s going to be pretty awesome,” Arthur said. “I think you’re going to see a newer generation of first responders that are really comfortable with technology, and I think you’re going to see greater deployment of these types of technologies.”