Julian Foster reports from the launch of the Motorola Solutions UK Innovation Centre – sharing perspectives from senior executives on technology being developed to support police forces in their mission to do more with less.
Keeping people safe. Reducing crime. In simplistic terms, that’s what policing is all about. Traditionally, group-based voice communications have played a vital role in supporting officers to deliver on these two objectives. But the advent of LTE broadband opens up new possibilities to expand mission-critical communications beyond voice alone – to improve officer safety and optimise efficiencies pre, during, and post-incident.
A lot of research has been conducted around how much policing time is spent in these areas. Let’s look at how we’re applying technology across all 3 phases to support our customers in their digital transformation beyond voice communications.
Before Incident – Proactive Policing
Proactive policing is already happening today. Most police forces use a technique called hot-spot analysis to get an historical view of where crimes have taken place. But if you think of a hot-spot, the area that you need to patrol could be a very large “general” area. With police forces having very limited resources, we want to narrow down that patrolling area. This is where predictive analytics really comes into its own.
It enables us to predict the location and timeframe when a specific type of crime is likely to occur. That’s very important, because if you think of a police force – there’s different skill-sets to solve different types of crimes. Predictive analytics enables forces to prioritise resource where it will be needed most.
In a demo, Olatunde Williams showed how forces can mobilise information to the people who are going to carry out that patrol. Imagine you’re the Duty Inspector and you want to ensure that your patrols are focused in the right areas. If you can pinpoint a precise neighbourhood that you want to patrol – this has a massive impact on efficiency and ability to respond to an incident. If the analytics show that between 8am-4pm there’s typically a theft – you can allocate officers to that area in advance, to reduce response time, and most importantly – reduce the impact of an incident.
During Incident – Helping officers become more effective in the field
Experienced officers often build up a gut instinct that something isn’t quite right. Maybe an officer has noticed something about a car that has just driven by. The first thing they would do is turn their lights on and pull the vehicle over. As soon as the lights are on, the dashboard camera can be automatically activated and everything is time-stamped and logged, digitally.
If you’re then approaching the vehicle, the officer needs to know that it’s safe. He can run a vehicle check by speaking into his handheld device. From here, he can not only learn about the vehicle itself, but can also run checks on the registered owner. If there’s any active cases, the officer can drill down to learn more. This is a concept of what’s possible by using alternative modes of interactivity.
High Velocity Human Factors
A customer of ours described the life of being a first responder as “hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of terror”. First responders experience things that most of us can’t even imagine. The levels of stress they experience are extreme. Studying human behaviour during these moments is vitally important when developing technology to support officers in the field.
For example, there’s a reason why the emergency button is on the top of a two-way radio. Intuitively, you can feel your way to it, by sliding your hand down the antenna. But as we covered earlier, you don’t have to press buttons to interact – we can use voice activation too. Voice activation will become increasingly important to support the notion of Eyes Up, Hands Free – where technology enables officers to be less distracted and more aware of their immediate vicinity.
It’s a Two-Way Radio. But not as you know it
If we can interact with technology using voice, it raises an interesting question. Do we need a screen at all? What if we got all the technology available in a Two-Way Radio, and transformed it into a wearable device like we see below? This isn’t a pipe-dream, it’s something we’re developing for officers in the field. The technology could also be implemented in the form of a vest – something which every police officer wears.
How does all this help an officer to be safe?
Pretty much every TETRA radio on the market today – features sensors. The most common is the man-down sensor that detects if an officer is lying down and non-responsive. Sensors like that would be included in the wearable device. An automatic emergency alert would go out to all officers nearby – indicating that there’s a colleague who needs urgent assistance.
With a connected-police officer there’d be sensors to detect when the gun is drawn, the Taser is pulled. There’d even be an integrated heart-rate sensor. Remember, radios have GPS so we always know where an officer is. With all of these different inputs, a context engine could detect if the officer has a high heart rate – and trigger an action. If an officer is in a dangerous situation and has needed to pull their Taser – an automatic sensor can switch-on the body-worn camera to start recording the incident, and logging everything digitally. The officer hasn’t had to enter any of this information – it’s all triggered, generated and stored automatically so contextual notes are available for chain of evidence.
If an incident happens in the UK, you dial 999. Traditionally, the dispatcher gathers information, and then communicates that to available resources – usually via radio. When the incident is resolved, the paperwork begins. This is an area where we can improve efficiencies. We can integrate call taking and dispatch to mobilise the response quicker. In the area surrounding the incident, shot sensors can detect if a gun has been fired. The intelligence officer back at the station can then look at live CCTV images and combine that with images available from Body-Worn Cameras from responding officers to get a complete picture.
The potential is significant for sharing new levels of intelligence. But we have to mindful of not overwhelming an officer with too much information. We’ve been developing an interface that provides individual officers with the contextual information they need – nothing more, nothing less. This could include details of nearest colleagues on a map. The officer can easily create a group to communicate via PTT to those officers via any device. Digital photos and videos can be securely shared. White-boarding functionality can also be used for deeper collaboration during an incident.
At the end of the shift, all this information is stored in a digital vault. Notes, contextual information, video is all securely stored – with a robust chain of custody.
Julian Foster is Global Co-Lead for the Social Media Centre of Excellence at Motorola Solutions