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CEO Blog

12th March 2019

Quick to develop but slow to change was how a colleague recently described the UK public safety sector.  I’m not sure if I would have put it like that but I see what they were getting at.  As we head into our Annual Conference & Exhibition, I am once again amazed by the technology that will be shown, discussed and talked about.  I’m pleased we are able to bring cutting edge developments as well as improvements to current products.  Sometimes incremental steps are necessary and the journey can be as important as the destination.

We know in both our sector and the world in general, technology keeps advancing and the amount of data, information, available grows with it.  One of the many challenges is to make sense of this information and to ensure it helps rather than hinders, the task in hand, especially when it’s saving lives.

It’s a common discussion point at our events and many others with similar themes, that the world moves on.  People’s expectations of their suppliers, be they utilities, supermarkets or retailers, is that technology is used to make things easier, quicker, better and preferably cheaper.  If we see ‘tech’ in use on one website or product area, we expect to see it adopted in others.  Once we have had that new and better experience, woe betide the next provider we interact with if they don’t match that new expectation.

What of our public safety and emergency services though?  Do they compete in the same way to provide that enhanced customer experience or improve that process?  Should they?  Could they?  New technology provides new opportunities.  We are experiencing an avalanche of data from the field via the Internet of Public Safety Things (IoPST), smart devices and wearables to name but a few.  In some countries we are already seeing examples of watches calling the emergency services when the wearer falls.  Such devices routinely monitor your vital signs.  Who is ready to accept that information if the wearer has a heart attack rather than a fall?  

Are we equipped to receive all of the information coming our way?  Many control rooms and comms centres, including our national 999 receiving centre, can’t accept messages from anything other than the technology most consumers stopped routinely using years ago.  Do we worry more about whether to advance rather than how to?

There is no doubt the devices and the technology will deliver the information and the opportunities, so what are we going to do with it?  Even if our equipment can handle the incoming information, who makes the decisions based upon it?  Maybe we should ask what makes the decisions? 

It may help if we ask when is the decision made?  Humans may not have the capacity to handle the data or it may need many more people to do so.  Bulk handling and processing of information is something technology can do for us.  Consider facial recognition and video redaction.   Artificial Intelligence (AI) does it faster and more accurately than we do.  Is there a step where processing takes place in between information delivery and the decisions made on that data?  Or do we let the technology handle the decisions too? 

We will probably say it depends on the potential impact or outcome of the decision and then favour the human, the current way of working.  What if doing so slowed the process down and led to loss of life?  Unlikely but worth considering.  Let’s not get too bogged down with the ethics of AI.  Maybe a theme for another BAPCO event, or a white paper from one of our members?

So, come along to our events, see and hear about the art of the possible.  Learn from those who have done what you are considering and are willing to share their experience so you can learn.  Maybe they aren’t in your sector and don’t understand your problems but if they work with technology and with people then we have much in common and can all learn and improve, no matter the industry an idea comes from.

Ian Thompson 



30th January 2019

Both the BAPCO Board and the Executive Committee meet four times a year on a quarterly basis.  Whilst there is the formal business to be done of running the association, especially for the President and two VPs who make up the Board, it’s also a time to catch up and discuss what is happening in our world of Public Safety communications and technology.

The BAPCO Executive Committee consists of thirteen people.  We have six who represent the user community and six who represent the commercial side of our world.  This includes developers, producers, integrators etc.  We also have a co-opted member, Becca Jones, Customer Engagement Director from the Home Office ESN team.  Executive Committee members serve for a limited time and six of the Executive Committee members are new to their roles.

With such a change to the committee, I decided we needed to do something to bring the team together, to learn about each other and to see what skills each person brings to the group.  With a new collection of people, it was also an ideal time to consider what BAPCO should be doing and what direction we should be heading in.  We have done a lot to improve the association over the last two years but it’s important every so often to look up and make sure you’re doing what is expected.  The first meeting of the ‘new’ Executive Committee was my ideal opportunity to look closely at this with new colleagues.

As we all live and breathe this Public Safety and technology world, it was important to bring some independence, impartiality and outside thinking to our meeting.  I asked Andrew Chamberlain of Consort Strategy to join us and to run the day.  Andrew has extensive experience with member associations as a leader and Chief Executive as well as assisting others to learn, to grow and to focus.

Andrew and I worked together beforehand to design a workshop we hoped would be enjoyable while at the same time assisting the committee to consider their roles and the future vision and strategy of BAPCO.  You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men though…

From the start of the day, everybody was engaged and willing to share experience, ideas and opinions.  Andrew soon helped us to strip that back to concentrate on the fundamentals and basic questions.  He was aided and abetted by Becca who regularly asked ‘But why?’  Only a short sentence but it does keep you focussed.

It was a full day that left me wondering what the new members of the team must be thinking.  Would I have a raft of resignations in my inbox the next day? 

I’m pleased to say everybody is still on board, nobody has left.  There is a lot of work for Andrew and I to do before the next meeting.  We are part way through the work to develop a strategy for BAPCO for the next three years.  One that will be developed by representatives of the members, rather than a Board or CEO in isolation. 

Of course the ‘normal’ business of our association still goes on.  We are only weeks away from BAPCO 2019 with Critical Communications Europe at the Ricoh Arena on the 12th & 13th March.  We are working on a summer workshop event on the 11th June to consider the UK’s plans for Next Generation 999 and what that means in particular for end users and future opportunities to gather information from incidents.  We are also beginning to plan for this year’s Satellite Event in Newcastle on November 13th & 14th.

Get the dates in your diaries and I hope to see you at BAPCO 2019 in March.

7th January 2019

Here we are at the beginning of 2019.  Many of you will probably have worked without a break other than your scheduled rest days.  While much of the country and our community takes time out, I know from experience the ‘jobs’ still keep coming in.  We appreciate how hard it can be and thank you, your families and loved ones for what you do.

Looking back, December was a busy time for me, some of it considering new areas of work.  Along with our President, John Anthony, I attended the International Critical Control Rooms Association (ICCRA) annual congress.  John was a speaker at the event which took place in London this year.  It was interesting to catch up with people from the control room environment from all over the world and to exchange views and ideas.

Later in the month I attended the Associations Congress and Exhibition for UK & Ireland.  I’ve been in my role with BAPCO for two years now and realise how easy it is to become consumed by the day to day work of the association and trying to get new initiatives up and running or breathe life into others.  This is as well as managing ‘routine’ matters such as our Annual Conference & Exhibition.  I realise if BAPCO is to be stronger and better we / I need to learn from other associations.  Whilst our aims and objectives may be different, we have a lot in common in terms of what we do and who we work for.  It was an interesting couple of days and really took me out of my comfort zone.  I intend to look into this area a lot more in 2019.

We have our first Executive Committee meeting of 2019 later this month.  It will be the first time we have had everybody together since six new members were appointed to the committee last year.  Rather than the usual Executive Committee meeting which tends to concentrate on routine business, this one will be different.  We intend to concentrate on what people bring to BAPCO, what they can offer the association and very importantly, what it should be doing and where it should be heading in these interesting times?

It’s a different approach, particularly as we will be only weeks away from BAPCO 2019 with CCE but it’s something that needs doing.  An organisation that doesn’t listen, learn and evolve doesn’t remain relevant, if it even exists at all. 

I hope you’ve booked to attend BAPCO 2019 with CCE.  It looks likely to be our biggest event yet with a great line up of interesting international speakers covering many areas of public safety communications and technology.

Ian Thompson