The German Federal Police (Bundespolizei) is using the Pentaho Business Intelligence (BI) suite to perform business analytics for the deployment of police officers. The organisation aggregates information from various systems — more than twenty fields of operations in e.g. border entry, asylum seekers, crimes and detectives — into its data warehouse, and works this data into statistics. The resulting information is used, for example, for shift service management, specifically at the national airports, and to fulfil the department's reporting obligations to the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
The Pentaho software has been developed by a US company that is now part of Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). The suite is available in two versions: the Community Edition (freely available as open source software under the Apache License 2.0) and the Enterprise Edition (a commercial product containing extra features). The German systems integrator IT-Novum is responsible for implementing the project and providing consultancy, training and support to the Federal Police.
Before we decided in favour of Pentaho we have tested several other products, says First Chief Police Commissioner Michael Becker. We looked into open source as well as proprietary products, and it became obvious very quickly that we generally wanted a product from the open source area. The advantages stood out quite clearly. We would get a 100% free and ready-to-run system that can be tailored to our needs and against fixed budgets.
Another requirement was support from the online community. In this regard, it is very important to verify how long a product has been available on the market, and how it's been taken care of by the community.
Finally, the technology and the overall package were what determined us to make this choice. We have not found any other product on the market that gives us greater support than Pentaho with all its tools. In addition, it's no problem if you start with the free variant Pentaho Community Edition and switch over to Enterprise Edition later on. We have worked with the CE version for three years and just moved over to EE. This transition has been seamless, and very beneficial to us: the support possibilities have been vastly improved.
Swiss army knife
At this moment, the police input statistics are based purely on these two dozen fields of operation in our data warehouse, Becker explains. We are already able to get precise reports on these fields quicker and more comprehensively than ever before. To carry out even more detailed analyses, we are currently working on integrating R and R-Shiny into Pentaho. At this moment, this is still in the prototyping phase.
Our 'Swiss army knife' in the Pentaho suite is PDI (Pentaho Data Integration), for which it has been taking us just a few hours to write new scripts. Since the scripts can be connected to each other, the whole process is very quick.
You will almost certainly either love open source or hate it, Becker concludes. The fact is, however, that in the land of infrastructure servers, using something other than Open Source Software is not even considered. Nearly all the essential and important servers are based on some Linux derivative. In these environments, only a small fraction are based on more proprietary operating systems. If it fits our infrastructure perfectly, why not deploy open-source applications as well?
Since I work in an OSS environment myself, I certainly have a larger affinity to open source, but definitely not at any cost. So we do not want to use open source exclusively — for instance we will not be replacing the traditional office productivity/communication software with open source. But wherever it's possible without much effort, we should use open source to reduce costs.