The use of mobile devices has grown significantly in the last few years. In a recent Pew Research report, 46% of respondents said they could not live without their smartphone; earlier research had 44% of respondents reporting that they sleep with their phones.
Google has extensively studied mobile search and app use and has coined a new term: “micro-moments.” These micro-moments are defined as “the I want-to-know moments, I want-to-go moments, I want-to-do moments, and I want-to-act moments” that drive behavior.
Another important factor that supports the use of mobile is that mobile device use and smart phone internet access is relatively even across socioeconomic and demographic strata. In fact, younger African American males had higher rates of smart phone ownership and use than white and Hispanic younger males. And urban rates are higher than rural. In other words, this is an all-inclusive communication platform. Agencies are able to share data with and engage the ENTIRE community and achieve great penetration in the minority neighborhoods where regular engagement is more critical than ever.
The proximity of mobile devices combined with micro-moments allow Public safety organizations to design mobile applications as a tool to effectively alert, inform and educate the communities.
In creating mobile apps for public safety departments we have observed that the most commonly implemented function categories in public safety apps are:
- Information Sharing
- Constituent Outreach and Education
Government agencies are charged with effectively communicating information with the public. Mobile devices allow agencies to share data that they hold with the public, share time sensitive information, and location driven information.
Data Driven Information
Sex Offender Information
Public safety agencies collect and manage a significant amount of data of interest to the public. Mobile apps and websites can be used to easily share the data. Data driven information changes frequently and makes the app lively—it makes it more likely for the public to continue using the app.
Among the highest interest data for the public is information contained in the sex offender registry. Many agencies have designed mobile apps that offer the the public a quick way to find registered sex offenders who live in their area. Common functions implemented are:
- Map based interface that allows known sex offenders to be viewed based upon registry location. Colored markers appear on the map to indicate exact locations and their degree of risk
- Detailed information about a particular sex offender including their offenses and latest photos when available.
- Notification functions that also allows the user to signup for alerts for a particular offender.Search for offenders by name,address, city, county or zip code and see information on the publishable offenders within the map view of the address you enter.
Top 10 Most Wanted
Public safety agencies take advantage of the ubiquitous presence of smart phones to disseminate information on Top 10 Most wanted Fugitives. Mobile apps allow for quick reporting back of information for agencies.
Critical and Emergency Information
Mobile phones are usually within two feet of their owner. This proximity allows for easy communication of critical or emergency information. Commonly implemented functions include:
- Missing Person Notices such as Amber Alerts, Silver Alerts, and blue Alerts
- Infrastructure Notices such as road closures
- Emergency Notifications
Information at the moment of need
Agencies frequently put out information on mobile apps that is urgently needed at the moment of need. Examples include:
- Telephone numbers and resources for victims of crime, violence or abuse
- Emergency preparation information
- Accident reporting process information
- Location based information such as location of emergency shelters, emergency routes, public safety offices, etc.
Mobile phones allow you to report at the time of incident—at the “I want to act” moment.
Suspicious Activity Reporting
Mobile apps enable citizens to instantly report suspicious activity and support the “If you see something, say something” initiative. Applications frequently give citizens the ability to:
- Capture a photo of the incident
- Enter details about an incident; who, what , when, where, and why
- Automatically dial the tip number
- Automatically find and use the device’s location or enter an address
- Report detailed subject and vehicle descriptions
Mobile apps for public safety also allow citizens to report quality-of-life problems that they would normally call in.
- Location based reporting of potholes, graffiti, damaged street signs, damaged street lights, parking meter, damaged trees and other problems
- Capture and upload pictures of the problem
- Status tracking of submitted reports
Mobile devices allow agencies to take advantage of “I want to know moments” to educate the public.
The Texas Department of Public Safety wanted to educate the public on the problem of human trafficking. Their mobile app includes information on the nature of human trafficking, delivers location based news reports on human trafficking incidents and presents a map view that displays locations of known centers of human trafficking.
Want to share this information on your blog or website? We have an embeddable Infographic available at http://www.slideshare.net/microassist/mobile-apps-for-public-safety-organizations-infographic We would appreciate a link back to this blog.
Related Article: Taking Control of Your Agency Image: Mobile Apps and Policing