ROSEVILLE — On June 26, Direct Technology’s Emergency Call Tracking System (ECaTS) software was awarded Champion of Technology by the California State Fair. ECaTS, which is deployed in 35% of all American public-safety answering points (PSAPs) and recently won its first international contract, provides live emergency call tracking and analysis. The entire ECaTS team is very proud of receiving this year’s Champion of Technology award, and none more so than Fred Michanie, President of Direct Technology. Here, Fred gives us a sneak peek into how Direct Technology turns information into insights, and how other government entities can use data analytics to pursue their own goals.
ECaTS has been a profitable, popular public safety analytics tool for years. What caused it to reach Champion level this year?
Fred Michanie: When ECaTS was released, there wasn’t a market for business intelligence and analytics that focused on improving emergency services as a whole. So we spent our first few years teaching and promoting this service, asking people to consider: What’s the value of information? As ECaTS evolved, we created the Dashboard, which allows agencies to look at 911 calls in real time. Now, with ECaTS having played an important role in responding to emergencies like the San Bernadino and Orlando nightclub shooting tragedies, the industry has discovered there’s more value to analytics than just administration.
How has call tracking analytics changed the business of emergency response?
FM: Call tracking provides the ability to look at and analyze call handling, call traffic, where calls are coming from, whether they’re wired or wireless—and all that information allows PSAPs to manage their programs more efficiently. Moreover, the Dashboard evaluates call answering equipment, staff, training, and the effectiveness of policy and procedures. That means PSAPs can use the data to make targeted improvements and identify funding needs. Which PSAPs are taking the most calls and therefore need more funding for staff? Where are resources not being used efficiently? Where is there a danger of callers getting a busy signal due to understaffing? Ultimately, the goal is to make sure 911 is available when people need it.
What insights are gained from live tracking of information, as opposed to later data review?
FM: It’s really about situational awareness. Real-time intelligence allows dispatchers to understand an emergency situation better, and analytics help officials understand the impact of an emergency on 911 infrastructure as well as the effect on local resources—fire, EMS, police, hospitals, SWAT, etc. Where are all the calls coming from? With that data, you can identify the epicenter and path of the event, as well as the immediate impact on the regional cellular infrastructure. What is the PSAP arrangement around the scenario? That’s how you effectively combine resources to react to the event. This is significant intelligence that agencies didn’t have in the past, and it’s critical to have during an incident.
What other areas of government do you think could benefit from real-time data analysis?
FM: Transportation is a good one. Sensor-based data on bridges, freeways, and at busy intersections could be very helpful. But really, any entity that manages a large number of resources should use real-time analytics for things like risk detection and management of people and physical resources. It keeps agencies, workers, and projects accountable for their people, practices, and results, and it prepares the leaders for situations that demand immediate attention. Say a crane falls over into a street. You need to be prepared for an immediate, effective, coordinated response to something like that.
How does data analytics affect decision-making in government?
FM: At Direct Technology, we use data to make financial and strategic decisions for our clients’ businesses. Which areas do we invest in? Where should sales be focused? Where do we need more training? The same applies to the public sector. More and more, organizations are recognizing the value of business intelligence and analytics in making decisions on how to run agencies more effectively. Public entities face the same pressures as the private sector does: lots of work to do, limited budget, multiple programs. Data analytics allows those agencies to make decisions and shape priorities more intelligently and proactively.
How do tech vendors influence the direction of technology in government?
FM: Tech companies influence business behaviors through the services they provide. But there’s a distinct responsibility to being a tech vendor in the public sector. Government organizations rely on us to be the subject matter experts, to tell them why our products work for them and follow through on our promises. Their main focus is serving the people. We must provide the best programs and processes to help agencies be more effective, and develop features that help government be as efficient and effective as possible. Workflow, forecasting, predicted budget completion cycles, monitoring, and accountability are key.
When we as a vendor take the lessons we learn in private sector and implement them with integrity in the public sector, it benefits everyone. The government increases its effectiveness, we contribute to serving the citizens in their jurisdiction, and it develops a great partnership between us.
Finally, what’s the one thing every public employee should know about data analytics?
FM: The most important thing for everyone to understand is that not only is it impossible to effectively manage any program, company, or organization without information, information is useless without analysis. Turning information into intelligent insights is the key to good management decisions.