Police forces use private cloud to access Holmes database

Police forces across the UK will access the Holmes major investigation system via a private cloud service

At least £2.5m savings could be made when 43 UK police forces start using a private cloud service supplied by Unisys to access the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (Holmes).

Unisys has been operating Holmes for the last 13 years.

"This is the first time the system will be provided through a UK private cloud," said Forbes Gallagher, account director for police and criminal justice at Unisys.

Because Holmes is operated on-premise, police forces need to run it from their own IT infrastructure and license commercial database software such as Oracle or SQL Server.

Gallagher estimated the savings in licence fees could amount to several million pounds.

The cloud-based system should improve investigations too. "Instead of having 45 pools of data, you have one massive pool," he said.

Users will be able to share investigation data more efficiently and track queries from other police forces, in a similar way to how web recommendation engines operate.

Although this latest release is an evolution of Holmes, Unisys has changed some of the back-end software. It now supports open-source software and web services, as well as Oracle and SQL Server. 

Gallagher said Unisys is talking to a number of small software providers to build enhancements for Holmes system, such as the ability to search across social media sites.

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"The new version of Holmes will connect UK police forces to provide critical new intelligence sharing functionality that will help us in our efforts to resolve large cases as efficiently as possible," said Mike Barton, chief constable of Durham Constabulary.

"The cost and resourcing benefits we hope to achieve with Holmes will support our efforts in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review and the solution’s improved functionality will help us to meet the Government Information and Communications Technology strategy of reducing the number of Police systems.

"Unisys has been a trusted partner of UK policing for many years and this new version of Holmes is the result of a deep understanding of the requirements needed to perform our role."

Police forces are beginning to use predictive analytics tools to support investigations.

Improving Holmes

The system has also switched from the USoft 4GLprogramming tool to Unisys Law enforcement framework (U-LEAF).

"We have modularised quite a lot of functions like identification. When a statement is taken, the data is automatically indexed and can be visualised using a GIS system," said Barton. 

The new version can also ingest data in any format, which would save a huge amount of time.

Holmes is available on the Government Digital Marketplace, but for police forces looking for a major investigation system, it is the only one listed.

When asked whether Unisys would offer it on a pay-per-use basis, Gallagher said: "We looked as software as a service, but it is not a multi-tenanted service so we had to balance costs."

He said that if it was priced per user or incident, the cost of using Holmes could have curbed usage. Instead, Holmes is sold more traditionally, with an upfront licence fee and on-going maintenance.

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