ROADS helps police Ontario streets

Cops in Cornwall, Ont. now have real-time access to policing data from their patrol cars, thanks to a wireless communications infrastructure installed by Canadian IT services firm xwave.

On Monday, the Cornwall Community Police Service officially fired up xwave’s remote office and dispatch system (ROADS), an application designed to interface to local dispatch systems, provide messaging between cars and access databases such as the provincial motor vehicle registry, and the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), said Blake Paquin, a police spokesperson.

“Previously, officers would have to call [queries] in on the radio, and staff would have to run it and relay the information back to the officer, and there was a lot of airtime being used up. So going vehicle to vehicle, or doing a straight query yourself is more discrete and also it makes the officers out on the road less reliant on our dispatchers … which in turn to us means an increase in officer safety,” Paquin said.

The ROADS system – which runs a Windows 32-bit environment on in-car laptops connected to a private radio network – was designed from the ground up for use in the specialized environment of a police car, said John Taker, the Ottawa-based director of xwave’s public safety group.

“It’s one seamless application based on transactions and it’s all session-less because it can’t be guaranteed coverage, as it interfaces to a wireless environment. So there are special considerations for taking these transactions and moving them over the wireless network to a message switch centralized on the police premises, and that message switch does the actual interfacing by transforming the transaction to the necessary protocols to talk to the external databases,” Taker said.

xwave has deployed its ROADS application for about 25 police detachments around the country, and one challenge is the availability of a wireless network, said Taker.

“We’ve had to take an approach so that we’re aware of, and compatible with all wireless networks. Whether they’re the public networks like (Motient Corp.’s U.S.-based) ARDIS or CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) or the private wireless networks that some of our police department customers have elected to deploy on their own,” he said.

In Cornwall, xwave engaged Montreal’s Dataradio Inc. to implement a private data radio system to cover the eastern Ontario city, Taker said. The Cornwall Police service’s in-house IT staff did the in-car software and hardware installation, but xwave did everything else, Taker said, right down to recommending dash mounts, and acquiring the Panasonic ToughBook 27 laptops.

“It seems funny (because) we’re in the software development business and the networking business, but when it comes down to it, [the system] has to work in these very cramped police cars so the consideration of the ergonomics in that device is paramount,” he said.

Another challenge, both Taker and Paquin noted, was getting a workforce with varied computer skills up to speed as efficiently as possible.

“We’re not training [the officers] in the use of their applications – they already know how to run a CPIC vehicle query – but we made the application very intuitive … so it’s not a mater of having to study the screen for each kind of transaction,” Taker said.

“The ROADS system is very user-friendly,” Paquin agreed. “Most of the officers have gone through four to five hours of training, and within two days there was one officer who was already running close to 180 (license) plates (through the system) in his 12-hour shift.”

xwave is online at The Cornwall Police are online at