Integrator Helps Florida Law Enforcement Stay Connected During Super Bowl

Super Bowl XXXIX went off without any security breaches to speak of Sunday, which means Convergence Communications did its job. The integrator's collaboration system -- based on Microsoft portal and Office technology -- allowed the Jacksonville sheriff's office to stay connected with 53 other federal and local law-enforcement agencies right up until the Patriots took home the Vince Lombardi trophy.

The sheriff's office, of course, knew the event was coming and recognized the need for a flexible solution.

"The sheer volume of trying to communicate the multiple things happening was overwhelming," says Beth Horn, information technology officer at the Jacksonville sheriff's office. "We needed to find a solution that would be easy to implement on a technology that we were comfortable with and that required little end-user training."

The sheiff's office came across coverage of St. Louis-based Convergence Communications' success with the second presidential debate at Washington University. Convergence, which actually developed its E-Sponder portal solution prior to that for the Missouri Department of Homeland Security, created customized plug-ins for Microsoft's SharePoint/E Portal Server 2003 that streamlines the flow of information between field personnel and the operations center.

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"There were two major characteristics that made the Microsoft technology a fit," says Rob Wolf, president of Convergence Communications. "One is the ability for an end user to sit down at a browser and inherently know how to operate the solution, and two is the fact that the foundation is already there."

In addition to a proven solution, the sheriff's office needed a partner that could provide a lot of flexibility -- prior to the Super Bowl as well as after the event was over. Requests roll in on a daily basis from new users, Horn says, all of whom need to be approved from a security standpoint, and then incorporated into the system according to specific needs.

"Some vendors want to outline every possible change that could be made to a system, attach a dollar figure and have a purchase order," he says. "There's just no way that kind of model would have worked."

Convergence added more than 500 users in the first few weeks that the solution was available, and will likely reach 600 by the month's end.

"Officers are not going to think ahead six months to what they might want software to do," Horn says. "They turn it on and start to type, then realize they need a change -- and they need that change now. Having a vendor that is willing to work with that is the most important thing."

Once picked, Convergence worked with the sheriff's office to understand the area's specific needs and to figure out how the technology could make it happen seamlessly. That process will continue moving forward, as Jacksonville uses the solution during hurricane season and whenever collaboration is required between jurisdictions.

"We're not going to change the way the police department does its job," Wolf says. "Instead, we use the technology to enhance it. That means a lot of meetings and a lot of development on the fly. We've lived and breathed with these guys for a couple weeks now."