Technology can play a much bigger part in helping emergency services do their jobs in a changing society, according to the boss of a firm specialising in software for emergency and critical control rooms.
Mike Isherwood, managing director of Hull-based APD Communications, says emergency services are facing different challenges such as language barriers.
APD provides communication software to control rooms at police forces, fire and ambulance services.
Mr Isherwood told The Yorkshire Post that technology has a “much bigger part to play” in helping emergency services.
He added: “Part of the challenge that emergency services have right now is that the needs of our society are changing significantly.
“One example is the language barrier. We have an increasing population in this country that either have a relatively poor grasp of the English language or indeed some cases they can’t speak our language at all.”
Mr Isherwood highlights the example of immigrants who may have been trafficked illegally into the country.
“In order for the emergency services to respond to someone who has a language need, they have to figure out which language they’re speaking,” he said. “That can sometimes take quite some time to figure out what language they’re speaking and find an interpreter.”
He added: “Using technology going forward we will be able to analyse the voice patterns and actually tell them which language they’re speaking. It’s that kind of innovation that is required rapidly to match changing needs.”
APD is enjoying 34 per cent growth in business at the moment and Mr Isherwood is forecasting that to continue. He puts this growth down to “wise” investment in the development of their technology.
Mr Isherwood added: “We have really started to understand who we are and why we really exist as a business. By that I mean we’re not just here to make money.
“What we really care about is making technology for emergency services so that lives can be saved. That’s what we do incredibly well. That’s what we care about. We’ve gone back to our roots really.”
APD is a pioneer in communications software for critical industries. Away from emergency services the business works with airports as well.
Mr Isherwood said: “We work with Emirates airlines in Dubai. We work with Gatwick Airport as well.
“Our technology helps them to communicate with ground staff and emergency services should something go wrong or be anticipated as going wrong.
“Things that we don’t even think about, like fog and bird activity, that could risk the safety of flights and people on those flights.”
The firm also provides software to the London Underground.
“All of the communications that happen across the five train companies that operate on the underground is done using our software and we also have hardware actually inside the vehicles,” Mr Isherwood said.
In order to solidify the relationship with its client base, the company has launched a set of new national awards celebrating the life-saving work of personnel in emergency and critical control rooms.
The APD Control Room Awards will acknowledge the unsung heroes within critical control rooms and a variety of public and private sector organisations.
Neighbouring firm Seed Software has signed up as a sponsor of the awards. Mr Isherwood said: “The Control Room Awards are recognition for the incredible job that those guys do.
“We get recognition in that people buy our technology. But they don’t get thanks and recognition.
“They have incredibly difficult jobs that I couldn’t do.”
Nominations for the Control Room Awards are open until January 18.
To nominate an individual or team for the awards, visit: https://www.controlroomawards.com/nominate/
Innovation a vital cog in wheel
Innovation is a key part of the business, says Mike Isherwood, but innovation is also required from a customer perspective.
The managing director of APD, which employs 106 staff, says that many organisations are buying software to sit on their own servers in their own offices.
This restricts the ability to deliver upgrades and innovation to platforms.
He added: “The next innovation from an organisational perspective is the adoption of cloud technology so that they can input in new developments, get them at little to no cost.
“Where we’re driving our business is cloud technology to deliver all of the benefits as cheaply as possible for the emergency services.”