Skip to main content

Hack Highlight #3: AroundMET

This is the third in a series of blog posts highlighting the hacks that came out of Hack the Police.

Emergency services need to find things in a hurry!

That may seem obvious to you.

police stations and defibrillators
This hack was mine - and it's something I've been trying to put together for a while now. As I was running the event, I didn't have all the time in the world for coding - so I stuck to what I know best: Maps

I deliberately kept my goals modest, and the product simple. It's a map. It shows you where you are, and it shows you what you're trying to find - be that police stations, custody suites, defibrillators, or other locations of interest to police officers on the front line.

Did you know there are over 1,300 publicly accessible emergency defibrillators distributed around London?

As it turns out, the act of wearing a police uniform does not automatically bestow on a person the power to determine where those are. (Hint: if you ever need one, run to the largest store or shopping centre you can find, a tube station, a school, or other busy-looking public building.)

Information about defibrillators is compiled by the London Ambulance Service and regularly passed to the Metropolitan Police. What the police has always done with that - up to now - is a mystery. What we should be doing with it, is providing that data to every front-line officer in a practical format. It will help to save lives and it's something we can do without risk to personal data or public safety - as all it can do is improve the service we provide.

Sadly, no police force in the UK yet has the capacity to deliver this to their officers. That's something that various agencies are working on, and hopefully sooner rather than later we'll begin to see real new abilities in the hands of police officers.

Unplanned work

By building a small, high utility app over the course of 2 days, I aimed to highlight just how much more the police service could achieve if they had the capacity to perform unplanned work.

As we see across industry: Apps come and go. Some of them prove to be staggeringly useful to many, others only to a handful, and some to none. But they are also very low risk because they are so quick and easy to produce. They cost little to make when you have the skills in your organisation to do that, and are quick and easy to adapt when new requirements come along. Often, it's important to be able to move quickly and respond to changes in expectations. By being able to deliver these things for themselves instead of relying on large contractors police forces can cut costs and increase public confidence quickly and easily.

Through current means, however, that's not possible. Police services build business cases and hire expensive contractors to provide complex systems that still, somehow, seem to meet few of their needs. They are locked into service contracts that limit their options and make prohibitively expensive even the smallest pieces of work.

Police services in the UK can seize the opportunity to work much faster and better. To do so, all they need do is employ a few staff with development skills instead of following the traditional approach of expensive and slow contractual work. This provides them with the ability to act swiftly whenever they needed new work - regardless of what's required. It's an absolute certainty that there's enough work across any police force to employ several developers on continuous improvement.

There's work to be done to change hearts and minds at the core of policing that this is a smart approach that will yield rewards. That work is under way.

Popular posts from this blog

Google Play Services with Android Studio

Edit: This post is extremely deprecated -- with prejudice! It was written in an era when Google Play Services were not well integrated with Android Studio project work, and Android Studio itself was in its infancy.

This is a very quick guide to incorporating Google Play Services with your new Android Studio project.

Edit: [16:20 22/05/2013] I'll investigate the runtime NoClassDefFound error reported in the comments, and follow up later!

Edit: [23:17 27/05/2013] I'm coming to the conclusion that - as many have already pointed out - you really do need to include the entire library project in your solution. I'll post an update once I've fully tested this. 

In the meantime, please consider the advice below to be deprecated!

The first thing to say is: I fully expect the advice and guidance about how to work in Android Studio to change over time. Android Studio is in early access preview right now, and I'll bet my bottom dollar (is that a thing?) that over time it becomes m…

What's the best way to handle the Android camera?

This article is adapted from a response I gave on Reddit to the question "What's the best way to handle the camera?" in r/androiddev...

The Camera and Camera2 APIs are far from painless to use. If you've ever written an app that uses the camera (embedded in an activity or not), you've almost certainly come up against orientation issues, stretched previews, or weird quirks that change from manufacturer to manufacturer...

There are three good libraries out there that can save you from many common pitfalls:
Google's (unofficial) CameraView library.Mark Murphy's CWAC-Cam2 library.Dylan McKintyre's CameraKit for Android library. Each has different strengths. If you don't have time to read this whole article, here's a quick rule of thumb:
If you want to capture photos in a full-screen preview, but you don't want to have to rely on the native camera app, then use CWAC-Cam2.If you want to embed a preview into your Activity, use CameraKit. It's f…

Manually Testing Web Services in Visual Studio

The first time you debug a web service after creating it, Visual Studio will launch the WCF Test Client - a very useful piece of kit - and preload it with the details of your service.

In this article, we'll look first at testing your WCF service, and then an all-too-familiar issue that might crop up and spoil your fun!

Using the WCF Test Client

The WCF Test Client looks a bit like SoapUI, and is pretty similar in purpose: It allows you to connect to a service, enter some parameters and submit them to any given service method to see what you get.

After the first time you run the WCF Client, Visual Studio will forget all about launching it again until you make significant changes to it - which means when you subsequently hit f5 or choose Debug, it won't run again. It's worth knowing how to bring it up...

You can find it again by launching the Visual Studio Command Prompt, and launching wcftestclient.exe from there.

Once connected, making use of it is as simple as filling in …