Sharing data both down the hall and across the state
- By Stephanie Kanowitz
- May 25, 2016
A new data sharing service aims to help local public safety and judicial agencies pool their data and better communicate both within and across jurisdictions.
Right now, agencies generally buy their own records management systems and tools. Even if the same solution is used by two different offices or organizations, sharing the siloed datasets can be difficult or impossible. But with the Tyler Alliance, a unified architecture for clients of information solutions provider Tyler Technologies, customers will be able to “knit that data together better and allow citizens and role-based users to begin to navigate all that complexity,” said Bruce Graham, chief strategy officer at Tyler.
In a city or county, for example, the police department works with several justice organizations, “like the jail, the trial courts, the prosecutor, sometimes a statewide prosecutor, statewide court system,” Graham said. The result is excessive data duplication.
Through the alliance, Tyler wants its clients to be able to share data and communicate more efficiently across jurisdictions.
The alliance has five components. The first based on the solutions Tyler offers for each part of the justice process, from the point of the 911 call to probation. Second is the integration of those products so that if they are deployed at different agencies within a jurisdiction or region, some features are available out of the box, Graham said.
If police pick up a suspect they believe has been involved in a felony, they book him at the station, then take him to the county jail. “If those are two independent systems from two different vendors, that drop-off to the county jail may take two hours in the booking process,” Graham said. “What we are building [with the alliance] is a pre-booking, where the city police system will send ahead all the booking information to the county jail,” he said, where the handoff will take around 10 minutes. That simple data exchange “has the effect of being a force multiplier for the police.”
The third component is a product called dataXchange, which is based on a Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. As Tyler applications send data to the cloud, they check dataXchange for relevant, related data. For instance, it might show an outstanding warrant for someone’s arrest in a different town.
Officials can “drill into that data in more detail, and, in that case, they are actually going into the system in a neighboring county or a city,” Graham said. That access is based on an opt-in model, where a city or county sets the guidelines and authorizations for sharing its data.
Graham calls the fourth element the “federated foundation.” Each application has a common set of elements, and the federation allows integration of eight or nine of them. This means that a common service bus lets a county using the company’s systems for court and jail operations to integrate seamlessly, he said.
The foundation also includes authentication so that all Tyler applications recognize
users and know their rights and roles. It allows users to navigate to whatever applications they’re authorized to access, “as opposed to today, where they are doing multiple sign-ons,” Graham said. Workflow is also a feature of the foundation, allowing users to automate processes and data without coding and programmers -- and that translates to significant cost savings, he added.
In a typical county or city IT department, “a tremendous amount of their time is spent just trying to integrate with other systems -- all these disparate systems that were bought over multiple years -- and the effort of maintenance,” Graham said. “That’s what we are trying to begin to streamline.”
The final alliance component involves moving to unified portals for two different groups, one role-based for internal users and the other for users such as citizens.
Tyler plans to have all of this interconnection in place in the next three years. It’s included in the licensing of Tyler products, so when cloud-based clients upgrade to the latest versions, they will get the integration capabilities.
One agency that’s looking forward to trying it out is the Greenwood Village, Colo., Police Department. Before the department implemented Tyler solutions three years ago, its records management system consisted of a Microsoft Word document from which information would be manually entered into a system. As a result, data errors were rampant.
“It was dysfunctional,” said Chief John Jackson. “We were chasing disparate pieces of paper that were going into disparate data bases that were incredibly late in giving us any information to work from.”
Today it uses several Tyler products, including Tyler Public Safety, Records Management System, Computer-Aided Dispatch, CAD Mobile and Incode for the municipal court, in addition to Brazos, an electronic citation model that the department uses to get data into those systems.
Jackson said he’d consider the Tyler Alliance. “If it aids my department, and if we can do that, I will seriously consider implementing it.”
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.