White Paper

How the Next-Generation Work Center Improves Decision-Making

Integrating multiple data streams can help agencies quickly and effectively achieve their missions.
by: Houston Thomas |

The power of data-driven decision-making has been obvious for years, but making use of data, a dynamic and complex resource, can be challenging. Addressing this challenge is a priority for state and local governments looking to improve public safety, as well as the efficiency and quality of their services. 

To improve their data analysis capabilities, many agencies are enhancing existing work centers, such as emergency operations and fusion centers, with next-generation technologies. These next-generation work centers (NGWCs) incorporate intelligent, responsive ecosystems that integrate multiple data streams into a single, cohesive picture.

NGWCs use data-rich endpoints, such as video surveillance cameras and connected sensors; visualization solutions, analytics software and situational awareness platforms that transform data into actionable insights; collaboration solutions that connect decision-makers, regardless of location; and supporting infrastructure, such as network, storage and compute solutions. 

Evolution of the NGWC

When the New York City Police Department opened the country’s first Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC) in 2005, it offered rapid, unprecedented access to billions of records, maps and images. Fifteen years later, that combination of breadth and speed remains a salient feature of RTCCs, with one major difference: The scope of data now available to state and local agencies is exponentially larger, spurred by advances in mobility, digital connectivity and the Internet of Things.

Fortunately, agencies’ ability to glean insights from data — through visualization, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) — is also more sophisticated. These capabilities, when assembled under the umbrella of RTCCs and other NGWCs, enable agencies to leverage data for better, faster decision-making.

The operative word is “faster.” NGWCs facilitate data analysis in real time, the optimal speed for public safety operations. Agencies responsible for law enforcement, emergency management, transportation safety, terrorism response and cybersecurity require timely, accurate and thorough information to make decisions. Without it, they are at a disadvantage against criminals, natural disasters and other threats.

In a hypothetical example in a 2019 report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (PDF), researchers explained how the creation of an Emergency Incident Data Hub could improve the speed and coordination of first responders across jurisdictions and disciplines during a major natural disaster, such as an earthquake.

The EIDH would serve as a platform to connect the informational, physical and personnel resources of all participating agencies. For example, firefighters looking to rescue victims trapped inside a shopping mall could access floor plans and the mall’s security camera system via the police department, streaming the information to a situational awareness dashboard and to tablets used by individual responders. In addition to helping responders plot an access route to reach the victims, the information would be stored for analysis later, so authorities could improve their response efforts in the future. 


The approximate percentage of large police departments in the U.S. that deploy automatic license plate recognition systems

Source: Urban Institute, “Lessons Learned Implementing Video Analytics in a Public Surveillance Network,” (PDF) February 2020

How NGWCs Achieve Better Public Safety Outcomes

For these and other applications, technology serves as a force multiplier, in the field and in NGWCs. 

A recent study of the Strategic Decision Support Centers in Chicago, published by RAND for the Chicago Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice, found that SDSCs add structure to a decision-making process that previously was ad hoc and reliant on inconsistent information. 

“As a result, policing decisions can be made with a much higher level of quality — timelier, more complete and more accurate — than was typically possible before,” researchers write. 

The goal of NGWCs, of course, is to achieve better outcomes: solve crimes, mitigate natural disasters, identify and apprehend terrorists. The RAND study found that SDSCs did, in fact, reduce crime while enabling officers to respond to crime in new ways

The U.S. Department of Justice describes the mission of RTCCs as empowering agencies to “capitalize on a wide and expanding range of technologies for efficient and effective policing.” The DOJ also notes that RTCC deployment should be considered “an evolving process that will change as time passes, as lessons are learned, and as new resources and technologies become available.” 

That recommendation is reflected in the nature of the data that agencies incorporate into decision-making. NGWCs integrate data from both traditional sources (such as government databases and criminal records) and emerging sources (such as streetlight sensors and IP-enabled video cameras equipped with AI-enhanced analytics). NGWCs bring all this data together for timely, holistic analysis, situational awareness and decision-making that leads to better outcomes.

Want to learn more about how data integration can improve your agency’s decision-making? Read the white paper “The Power of the Next-Generation Work Center” from CDW.