Today I’m going to be reviewing a smart phone app specifically designed for Close Protection Officers/Operatives (CPO‘s) that has been out for a few months now. The app is simply titled CPO and claims to provide “relevant industry information for those who are working, those between contracts and those looking to move into the security industry”. So let’s break it down and see if it is worth downloading or if it will be one of those apps that you just never use.
You may have already read my review of 10 Apps that I find useful in the world of Close Protection, if you haven’t, then you can read it here: Top 10 Apps for the Modern Close Protection Officer. If you have read that article then you may notice that this app isn’t inside. Well there is good reason for that, which will hopefully come to light in this article, anyway, moving on. The first thing that is almost always the first thought when purchasing something is the cost, and this app is pretty cheap. For iPhone and iPad users it comes in at £1.99 which isn’t bad (the Android version is currently in development). But is it worth it?
The first thing to review is the level of content within this app. It certainly contains a lot of information. And it is all relevant to Close Protection which is a good thing, plus it has the benefit of not being covered in annoying adverts that pop up every 5 minutes like some of the free apps do. On the face of it the app looks very professional. It utilises solid colours and a good contrasting text format. A major bug bear for me with apps is when the creator get’s too creative and the text starts to blend into the background making it difficult to read. I like to be able to just look, read and be done, which is exactly how this app is laid out. One problem that I have noticed though is that while some of the menu bars in certain sections are scrolling (that is that you can go back no matter where you are on the page), on some of the pages you have to scroll back up to the top of the page before you can go back to your previous page. A minor point, yes, but consistency is key, is it not?!
Upon launching the app you’re provided with 10 options of where to go along with Facebook, Camera, E-mail, Video and Twitter links. I’ll cover these links first: and the first question I have to ask is why? OK that may be a bit pedantic but it does really seem like a case of adding them for the sake of adding them, which I’m not a fan of. Yes it is convenient if you’re already in the app and suddenly think “Oh I need to take a picture, right now” but it’s not, in my opinion, a major selling point.
Lets look at the 10 options you have for accessing content within the app.
This section of the app allows you to open contacts, set reminders, add events to your calenders, has templates for sending emails to companies regarding vacancies and has a template for CV’s. Having your contacts, reminders and calender accessible from one location could prove useful however I am not keen on the idea of using someone else’s template for sending emails seeking employment. The reason for this is because you need to tailor your cover letter to each company. Sending out generic emails to a large list of companies at once is a quick way to get your CV filed in the bin and while these email templates aren’t cover letters (they’re there for requesting permission to send a CV and cover letter), they are your first point of contact with a potential employer, and if they have seen the app then they may see it as laziness on your part. A minor point I know, but in the current over crowded market you need to be flawless with your approach at gaining work.
Potential Close Protection Equipment
Next on the list is a list of potential equipment that CPO’s may use while carrying out tasks. Now, I’m not going to go into too much detail on what is in the list as that wouldn’t be fair on the app creator but it does give some good information. It has lists of first aid kits, body armour, earpieces and a few others. The only down side, well there are two actually, is that firstly, the list is too vague to be of any use for some of the items. Once you get down to individual item recommendations there isn’t really any detail on item specifics, such as what type of items to have in your medical kit. The second thing that lets this section down is that it’s all a bit expected. It’s all stuff that every Close Protection Operator should know, there was nothing in there that made me think, “hmm I didn’t think of that”. On the plus side though there is a very handy guide to ballistic levels for body armour, which some may find useful. Although if you’re like me, you would already have a full ballistic chart stored in a documents app on your device.
This part of the app has a whole host of guidelines for carrying out certain aspects of your job as a Close Protection Operator. It has a guide for the duties of the Security Advance Party, Restaurant and Hotel check lists, vehicle equipment lists, a client threat assessment, and a few more. They’re all quite in depth as well and would certainly be useful for anyone who doesn’t know how to do these things. But here’s the problem, there shouldn’t be a single CPO out there that doesn’t already know how to do all this stuff. It’s all basics of Close Protection and is again all common sense, or should be to a trained professional!
Career and Personal Development
This section gives you advice on how to advance your career as a Close Protection Operative starting off with a list on how to become more organised going right through to searching for work and further training you can complete. Some of the information here is again, bog standard common sense to most CPO’s but there are some things in this section that may help those out there who are struggling to get that first foot in the door. For someone who has been doing the job a few years it won’t get you excited, but for the new comers to the industry this section could prove to be helpful. Especially for those who have used training providers that don’t offer much in the way of career and job seeking support.
Within the links section there is a list of….. you guessed it….. Links! Yep, that’s it, it’s just a page of website links. To be honest, some of the links are quite handy and are websites that some operators will undoubtedly use frequently, however, I don’t see the need to open an app, to click on a link, to be taken out of the app and into your internet explorer to open the webpage. Surely the old fashioned method of bookmarking specific websites within your internet explorer is still the best method for this?! This part just seems a bit like content stuffing to pad out the size of the app, although as I said before, some may find some of the links useful.
As a professional CPO I always have at least one bag packed with some essential kit. Things such as torches, spare radios, a variety of earpieces, a spare phone, a travel iron, a wash kit, notebooks, pens, a change of clothes, laptop, books, resistance band’s (for getting some physical training in when I can’t get home), etc, etc. I’m sure most, if not all, experienced CPO’s have the same and this section is there to help you pack. It’s split into One Day Contracts, Short Term Contracts and Long Term Contracts, and just gives you an idea of what you should be packing. Now here’s the thing, everything in this section is common sense (have you spotted the common theme yet?). I would expect someone who has no experience whatsoever in security to be able to guess most of the items in this list, and although the information is accurate and realistic, it does beg the question: why do professionally trained security operators at the top of their industry need this?!
My CPO Details
This section is about as basic as it gets. It’s a place to store things such as your SIA number and expiry date NI Number and UTR number. Firstly, why bother putting your SIA details into the app, when you have to carry the damn thing on you at all times while working anyway? Granted having one place to store the most important details for being paid in one place is a convenient thing to have in an app, but is it really needed? I think not, and it seems to me to be one of those things that adds a bit of padding to the app rather than adding quality.
I’m not entirely sure what this section does other than allow you to set a reminder. Within the section there are various “buttons” if you like, such as Update CV, Chase Invoice, Pack Go Bag, Search Vehicle and many more, but when you click them, nothing happens. Maybe my app doesn’t work properly, it certainly feels and looks like something should happen, but nothing does. Or maybe that’s the idea and all these extra “buttons” aren’t actually buttons at all but are just a list of things that you may possibly want to set as a reminder. Another case of content padding maybe??
Job Check Lists
Job Check Lists isn’t! There is no check list in here whatsoever, what there is is a few paragraphs that serve more as a bit of a patronising reminder of what you need to do before starting a job, and a vague one at that. “Pack your Go Bag with relevant equipment as per our recommendation”: It’s all a bit vague and non specific. There isn’t any solid detail in here and most of the information is repeated elsewhere in the app in a different form.
This feature in the app does exactly what it says on the tin. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t do it very well. It is basically just a map of the world. The exact same thing that all smart phones already have built into them these days, but with zero features. You can’t find your location on it, you can’t drop a pin, you can’t plan a route and you can’t access Google Street View. It is basically the equivalent of an A-Z map book, on your phone. With today’s technology and the features available in other mapping applications this is a really big let down for me. Why use an inferior product that is years behind in technology, especially when you have the advanced version already on your phone, or can easily download Google Maps for free. It’s the equivalent of using an A-Z in your car while having the latest Sat-Nav stuck to your windscreen. It just seems a little pointless and again like a bit of content padding!
All in all this app has solid content, and is laid out nicely. It’s not a chore to flick through, although some of the menu bars do need fixing, but they are minor issues. The content is relevant and up to date, but here’s the thing, and the reason why I never included it in my Top 10 Apps for the Modern Close Protection Officer article, it’s all common sense. It isn’t anything new, or anything too in depth. It’s all exactly what every CPO should already know, and while some people who have been discussing it on-line have commented that it would be good for newly qualified CPO’s, I have to disagree. The reason being that if you have just completed a Close Protection Course and don’t know this stuff, then you need to be asking for a refund from your training provider. But then again, with the current mass market of poor training providers out there, maybe this app could come in handy for those who have been trained poorly! It is certainly, in my opinion, not needed for a seasoned, or even newly qualified, well trained Close Protection Officers, as you should all know all of this anyway.
So who would this be handy for? Well, I think that anyone wanting to come into the close protection industry would do well to buy this app. It will give you a feel of the sort of things that you would have to invest in and would give you a very minor insight into what the job can involve in terms of preparation. I also think this would suit those that have been out of the industry for a while. Those who have been working in the maritime industry for a few years for example, who don’t have their course notes and want a little memory jog. These people may find it useful, but I don’t see many people using it as a “go to” app. I think it’s one of those sorts of apps that you look at a few times and then leave.
Having said all of that, it is sometimes handy to take a look at someone else’s ideas, we all buy books for the same reason, and although this app is all common sense, it may show you something that you haven’t thought of and for £1.99 it’s not going to break the bank!
You can download the app from iTunes App Store for £1.99