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SkyMail for the Public Safety Community

Author: Dan Starr, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, PDV

Copyright: Copyright 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content,

Date: 2011-02-28
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Most people would agree that communications within a Police Department is critical to the daily and safe operation of any community.  An unfortunate trend has caught on, though, perhaps in response to tight municipal budgets and officer layoffs.

“Many departments are attempting to reduce their radio communication by requiring their employees to communicate via written forms or by using in-vehicle laptop computers,” noted Dan Starr, vice president of sales and marketing for Pacific DataVision, (PDV), a leader in advanced mobile messaging, documentation and voice communication solutions that increase driver safety while improving field-worker productivity.

Recognizing that a more effective and safe solution would significantly increase the speed and accuracy of communications from the field, PDV took the lead by creating an application called SkyMail, which allows police officers to quickly and wirelessly dictate, document, share a recorded message to either an email address or mobile phone, with no computer or typing necessary.

SkyMail works on any mobile phone and across all major U.S. cellular carriers.  PDV provides an enhanced version of this service to Sprint Nextel under the NextMail® brand name.

“This is a far more valuable and safe solution for cash-strapped police and safety departments struggling with increased paperwork and reduced resources,” said Starr. “By introducing a solution that allows verbal communications from an officer on the road into dispatch without the officer having type into their laptop allows the police to spend more time actively patrolling and engaged in more productive activities, not the least of which is to simply ‘see and be seen’ as a criminal deterrent. Officers are simply not as effective if they are parked on the side of the road because they’re typing into a laptop instead of having their eyes up observing, and of course, being seen, which evidence has shown to clearly reduce traffic violations and other forms of crime.”

Inbound communications with SkyMail

 “With SkyMail,” explained Starr, “the police officer selects a customizable subject line from their cellular phones contact list, pushes their send or call button, speaks the message, and then simply hangs up.” The officers can preprogram customized subject lines into the phone, such as “Code Violation,” shaving even more time off the process.

Other benefits of this service include:

  • Ample time to leave a message – SkyMail offers up to 5 minutes to record an individual message 
  • Provisions for sender to take photos to attach to the communication as added proof or evidence of an incident
  • Ability to add location reporting to the message which show the location and approximate street address where the message was recorded and the photos were taken. 

The key to inbound messages is that it’s as simple as selecting a subject line, pushing a button, and speaking message of up to 5 minutes that is recorded, time and date stamped, and sent to a specific recipient. For police officers, multiple recipients could include a dispatcher, community services officer, public works department or a detective.

“There are so many add-on benefits with SkyMail,” said Starr. “One is that police officers and other city workers who utilize the app can safely and easily communicate back to headquarters without adding radio traffic and freeing up dispatch and 911 resources for critical real time communication.  Further, if it is fast, easy and safe, they’ll use it more often and actually increase communication from the field.” 

Starr said that examples of subject lines that officers can use for inbound non-emergency communications include:

  • Situational Report
  • Code Violation
  • Accident Verbal Notes
  • Obstructive Intersection
  • Vandalism/Graffiti Report
  • Community Service Report
  • Public Works Request
  • Crime Prevention Alert

“This is all possible without adding congestion to a busy radio system,” he said. “Now, add an emergency event such as a tornado, hurricane, plane crash or natural disasters, and you have a tremendously easier way to communicate without adding to the radio congestion that’s most common during emergencies, when lines become tied up almost immediately.”

Outbound Communication with SkyMail

How can SkyMail actually increase communication out to the field officers, city workers and even off-duty police and city personnel?  The application has two very effective forms of communication to the field.  The first is for field workers who have the SkyMail on their handsets.  SkyMail’ s powerful Push to Voice Reply Text Messaging feature allows city workers to send text messages from any PC out to the field to as many as 50 SkyMail users at a time.  The SkyMail recipient receives their text message and when safe to do so, reads the text message and simply pushes a button (Push to talk or green/send key on a regular cell phone).

 The recorded voice message is then sent back to the original text message sender.  Another significant benefit is that   that field personnel can communicate without adding voice traffic to the radio system and without calling them on their cellular phones.  Instead, the text message arrives and only when safe and legal to do so, they read the message and then speak their reply.  Voice reply text messaging offers safer, faster and more detailed voice replies to individual or group text messages. By asking for a voice reply, the sender no longer has to wonder who read the message, but they also can receive voice replies without anyone having to wait on hold to speak to them.

Finally, outbound text messaging that allows for safe voice replies with a simple push of a button without requiring respondents to text a reply, a task against many city regulations and in fact illegal in many states.  One additional major benefit of Push to Voice Reply Text Messaging is that all text messages and their recorded voice replies are archived.  This feature makes future reference to field text messaging as well as all SkyMail messages easy to accomplish.  This is becoming more important in light of changing Sunshine Laws and Freedom of Information Acts where text messaging is or may be required to be archived for public review.

The second valuable outbound communication tool of SkyMail is the Individual and Group Voice Messaging feature.  This feature allows any SkyMail user to create a voice message from their mobile handset with a Customizable Subject Line and record a message of up to 5 minutes in length and have it instantly sent to an individual or group of up to 50 user’s cellular phones, regardless of their carrier. 

The recipient receives a text message notifying them they have a SkyMail message from so and so regarding a particular subject. Press send or call this number to hear your message. When the recipient calls the specific number they will hear the recorded voice message after which they will have a choice to press 1 to reply, press 2 to repeat the message, or to simply hang up.  By pressing 1, they will be able to record a voice reply which will automatically be sent back to the original sender. 

Some very powerful benefits of this SkyMail feature are that a user can record this group message from anywhere using their Sprint phone.  They could ask a question of their entire staff, and all members would receive the message and be able to instantly reply to the message without any of them having to wait to speak to anyone or receive a voice mail.  One simple message with up to 50 replies all within minutes.  The sender of the message will also be able to receive notification when each person has listened to the message or if the sender prefers, they can log onto the secure website and actually see who has not listened to the message and who did listen to it and when.  Once again, the messages are all archived for future reference or review.

Examples of Outbound Public Safety Customizable Subject Lines include:

  • Shift Commander announcements
  • Public Safety Event
  • Overtime or Shift Availability
  • Vehicle Management Request
  • Incident Update
  • Off Duty Work Availability

“The SkyMail application simply allows police and other safety officers to work more efficiently,” said Starr. They can keep their eye on a situation and respond quickly and safely with more detail than traditional texting. The messages are instantly scanned and prioritized, allowing for immediate action when necessary.”


For information about SkyMail and Pacific DataVision, visit For more information on NextMail, visit


Dan Starr is Vice President, Sales and Marketing for PDV, a provider of instant voice messaging and documentation applications whose technology platform allows wireless carriers to offer enhanced services that increase mobile user productivity by eliminating the need for typing and writing.


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