With the UK six months into a five-year parliament set to be dominated by government austerity, one of the biggest agents for digitally transforming the UK’s public services to cut costs could be its 4G infrastructure.
At a recent EE event, ‘Changing the Game’, some of their customers explained how they were using networks in their chosen fields to enhance service provision.
Craig Warmington, IT Transformation Manager at Staffordshire Police, explained how devices were saving huge amounts of police time.
"The devices right there in real time allow officers to search for missing persons and take witness statements. When information is submitted that quickly it can be used that quickly. It is transforming policing."
Staffordshire Police, which aims to be the most technologically advanced police force in the UK, announced it would invest £23 million in technology in January. It began rolling out tablets to officers in March.
"These devices have saved around 250,000 hours of policing time, or the equivalent of 100 officers," said Warmington.
Warmington explained that this change went beyond just using devices on 4G.
"[We are] looking at how we can reconfigure the car to be built around that technology. When you look at the car, you can see that inside the car there is pretty advanced equipment. They’re scanning number plates, relaying real-time information about the officers in that car about the skills that they have and their location."
The connected cars also extend connectivity beyond the police force.
"The thing I’m most excited about is that the in-car device enables multiple secure private networks. When there’s an incident and we respond to that incident, our vehicle becomes a wi-fi hotspot not just for Staffordshire police but for our partners in health.
"That’s integrated with other services to make us more efficient and more effective."
Of course, the other services are undertaking digital transformation projects of their own. Dr Magnus Harrison, Medical Director of Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
"I still don’t think we’re anywhere near harnessing the power of 4G networks companies like EE have. "
"Transformational change is not doing things better, it is doing better things. We can’t rehash what we’ve done or look for operational efficiencies alone."
Alongside the use of better patient interaction techniques such as interactive messaging to stop people missing appointments and patients’ own use of wearable devices so that they can better manage their own health, Harrison claims that 4G could bring about a "boundary-less" health service.
"We’re structured at the moment with primary care, secondary care, tertiary care, mental health, community services and social services all in different blocks, because of the paper mechanisms that have been set up within the NHS.
Harrison’s vision is of "an API, an integration engine, that holds information from general practice, hospitals, pharmacies and dentists, presented on an iPad or cloud-based."
This, he said, would mean that "the boundary between different types of care goes.
"A simple integration engine would do that, with 4G connectivity. We [would have] a navigation engine that presents the whole set of data in front of us; we decide which metrics are going to help.
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