In Part 2 of this webinar, Shawn said, “I always start the show with the same two messages. One is to encourage folks to check out the Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook. It’s a great resource that you can use to your advantage and it’s specifically designed for evidence custodians and evidence managers to have a place to connect. There are nearly 900 people participating in that, now. The cool thing is you can go there and find answers to questions about particular issues, or just see how evidence is being managed in different parts of the country.
The other thing I usually start off with is a shout-out to Tracker Products because they’ve kept the lights on for us for the last three years. Today we’re sitting at the table with the Founder and CEO of Tracker Products, Ben Townsend. We formed a partnership three years ago and we like the trajectory of it.
Okay, moving on…15 years ago when I was working in an evidence room we had PDAs. Back then, PDAs were cutting-edge technology for evidence managers. But you still had to do your work on the PDA and then sync it back to the database. The thing that is revolutionary about cloud technology and mobile apps is that you don’t sync anything. Every action is immediately saved.
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Everything that you do happens in real-time, there is no potential lag in the accuracy of your information because it’s 100% in real-time. I don’t think that we can underscore the importance of accuracy with our data enough. Data accuracy equals data integrity. If it is not accurate, it has no integrity. And that is something that both cloud computing and mobile applications have resolved for us.”
Ben said, “Doing things as close to real-time as possible is always far more accurate. 15 years ago, Police Departments had their Police Officers coming back to the police department, going to the evidence room, and entering their evidence down there. Whether it was on pen and paper, or even on a digital system, that’s where it took place.
Now, with the mobile technology we’ve developed, we’re starting to see officers out in the field, taking pictures and doing real-time data entry. The best chain of custody is the one that most accurately reflects the exact moment in time that things occur.
I appreciate immensely that the people I work with now are way smarter than they were 15 years ago. 15 years ago, I really had to sell the idea of a cloud-based evidence management solution. Today, they come in demanding it because they understand what it means. They understand a lot of the terminology that I’m discussing with them. And, that makes me very happy because I’ve always believed that the more well-informed our clients are, the more our product is going to stand out from the others.”
Shawn said, “I’ll tell you another little fun application. Back in the day, I ran Crime Scene and Property Evidence. A lot of people have to do both. When we would work homicides, it was pretty much all hands on deck. One of the things I loved about the technology that we had – which was the old version of Tracker – is even back then I could go out to a homicide scene and we could process evidence in real-time.
We had remote label printers. We had everything we needed at our fingertips to process evidence in real-time. Being able to package, label, and get all that stuff taken care of in real-time is not only an incredible force multiplier but also an active agent to preserve the integrity of the evidence.
In storage, it is incredibly important that we take care of our evidence from cradle to grave.
The best way to do that is to have technology to facilitate that process from the beginning to the end of the evidence lifecycle.”
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Ben said, “ The one thing that I think our clients appreciate the most about cloud technology is when there is a problem, they generally don’t have to deal with it. For example, our product occasionally has glitches. If there is a problem with our product – especially if it’s down – we would post a message on the login screen saying, Hey, we’re on it. And that gives people a large level of comfortability.
I don’t have to track down my IT people, the message tells me that somebody is handling this. That’s the primary beauty of cloud-based technology, if it’s outside your building, it’s generally outside of your worry. Our job is to keep things up and running. All technology has problems, how they are resolved is really important.”
Shawn added, “It’s not just great software that matters. It’s also having an infrastructure. It’s having enough bandwidth. It’s having enough wifi strength. It’s having enough data storage.
Normally, when I’m doing my broadcast, I’ve got a lot more bandwidth than I’ve got here at a kitchen table. So, I normally have fewer latency problems.
One of the things that I find when I go to an agency and they’ve got technology problems, a lot of times it’s not the technology that’s the problem, it’s their infrastructure. If you have wifi in the back nook and cranny of your evidence room, and you’re trying to do things on a mobile device but it doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean the technology’s bad. It means there’s another underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
One of the things that I try to do on my end, is to help people understand the global nature of technology and how it impacts their operations. If they don’t improve their wifi, this new software that they purchase is not gonna help them in the way they need it to help them.”
Ben laughed and said, “The good news is I’m not running our Tracker infrastructure inside my house, where we’re having all these problems today. We’re on Microsoft Azure, where they have massive cloud storage platforms, with untold amounts of bandwidth and infrastructure. There was a day though, 20 something years ago, when I did have a server in my house, but no more.”
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Shawn said, “Let’s talk about the future of evidence management technology. Specifically for Tracker Products. What do you see happening in the next five years?”
Ben said, “There is a reality that we are never happy with where we are at any given moment. We are constantly trying to improve. And, that can be daunting sometimes because you never get to a point where you’re like, Oh, wow, this is finished and all is good. We are constantly pushing forward, trying to make things better.
We have a five-year plan in place that includes major technology milestones we want to accomplish. Currently, we’re in the middle of a one-year push that involves investing over a million dollars directly into our technology. That’s not a million dollars of company money to support sales or marketing or whatever other function, we are putting a million dollars directly into our product.
We have recently brought on some new clients that are REALLY large organizations. In fact, they are also really well-run organizations. It’s forcing us to take a look at how we serve really large evidence operations, but also build the software out so that it works for all of our other clients. We don’t have different versions of our products running around, depending on the size of your agency, it’s one product for everybody.
For the last couple of years, we’ve had a bit of a slow down when it comes to development because we’ve been investing in other areas of our company, but to support the next 365 days we have more than doubled our development infrastructure.
So, the number of people that we employ to do software development has gone from six up to – if you include our QA group – 15 people that are involved in development, QA, and production-release for our software. So, if you are one of our clients, in the next year you’re probably going to see more development, more updates, and more things coming out than you’ve seen since we introduced the SAFE product, over five years ago. I would say this will be the largest development push that we’ve ever had in our history.”
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Shawn said, “I’ve looked under the hood too, and I think that the types of changes that Tracker is talking about making over the next 12 months are going to really help their product scale. It’s easy to help an agency that is struggling with evidence management improve their operations than it is to help an agency that is excelling at evidence management to improve their operations.
The cool thing to me about Tracker’s commitment for the next 12 months is at the end of the year, they not only want to be able to take a struggling client and make them better, but they also want to take operations that are running well, and optimize their performance. With the stuff that’s in the works right now, I think that that’s going to be possible. I think that’s worth talking about.”
Ben said, “We’re looking at every area of our product and simply asking, How can we improve that and make that even better than what it is? One thing that pops into my head here is with our existing software product, there’s a bit of a limitation on how many transactions can be run at one time. We’re aiming to be able to process a hundred thousand items in one fell swoop. So, we have to look at every area of our technology in order to be able to pull something off of that scale.
Now, understandably, most people don’t process a hundred thousand items at a time, but it would be really nice improvement. Regardless of how many items you want to process, you will be able to just click a couple of buttons and you’re off and running with something that is significantly improved.”
Shawn said, “I would encourage y’all to continue to look at Tracker Products website, as they update things. They also do their own webinars. So, check out their website and follow their progress. I think you’ll be suitably impressed.
Okay, let’s flip over to the best way to learn about new things happening at Tracker Products… We originally conceived today’s webinar as a virtual lunch and learn, but it didn’t happen that way. Heck, we barely even made it into a podcast today. But, we endeavored to persevere. We adapted and overcame.
Anyway, Tracker is coming up with a cool way to get their message out to new folks as well. Would you like to talk about that Ben?”
Ben said, “Absolutely. In the future, our sales team is doing regional lunch and learns. I will say these are going to be very different than just your standard normal demos. Our objective as a company is to impact your operations, making them significantly better. We are looking to come out and show people, not just how software makes their operation better, but how we go about impacting every area of evidence management.
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That’s one of the things I’ve appreciated about our partnership with Shawn and the Evidence Management Institute. It’s allowed us to get beyond software and look at every area of an operation to see where we can make improvements. I believe that evidence management software is one of the largest ways to positively impact operations, but I think it takes a holistic approach to get it right. So, when we do these lunch and learns we’re going to be talking about a much larger perspective, but with software being important aspect of that.”
Shawn said, “We have a question from Russell, ‘Does Tracker have a product that would help organize its inventory, like Quartermaster equipment?’.”
Ben said, “Our product is not specifically made to handle Quartermaster. We have specifically decided to stay focused on evidence. We believe we can have the biggest impact on an organization when we’re not trying to get into a bunch of different areas.
I know that there are plenty of systems out there that also handle Quartermaster. But, we have specifically focused on evidence management. All the tools and everything we build is for that purpose. So the answer is…we do not delve into Quartermaster. I know there are some people that have used our products to sort of dovetail off some of that because it’s tracking.
But, just like an RMS system could not claim that they do what we do for evidence management, I can’t claim that we are going to be a very effective solution for a Quartermaster system.”
Shawn added, “And honestly, I think that’s the best approach. I mean, that’s why we don’t see RMS systems that are awesome at dealing with evidence. It’s that hedgehog principle, I mean… Stick to what you know, do what you know, the best you can possibly do it. If you can do it better than anybody else, even better. But when you start getting into areas that aren’t your expertise, it’s evident in the execution.”
The Evidence Management Institute and Tracker Products want to give you something productive to think about during this time of uncertainty… a series of free evidence management training and panel discussions. Watch and comment on the webinars here. Or – to get in on the discussion, with nearly 900 evidence custodians – join the Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook.
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