The 5 Biggest Tech Trends In Policing And Law Enforcement – Forbes

The future of crime fighting is being defined by much of the same technology that is revolutionizing business and other areas of life. Artificial intelligence (AI), automation, big data, extended reality, and all the most important trends we identify across other sectors are equally making their mark in policing.
The 5 Biggest Tech Trends In Policing And Law Enforcement
These technologies give police officers and intelligence agencies unprecedented powers to crack down on criminal activity as they attempt to keep us safe. They also help to tackle the new forms of crime that are emerging as criminals become ever-more inventive in their own use of technology and data.
So here’s a look at some of the latest developments in technology that will be playing a key role in policing today and in the near future.

Smart device data
The volume of data being generated is exploding, and lots of that data can potentially be useful when it comes to fighting crime. Internet of things (IoT) devices such as video doorbells and voice assistants, with their ability to capture incidental goings-on in their environment, are increasingly becoming valuable sources of intelligence for officers and detectives searching for evidence. Data from an Alexa smart speaker has been used by a court in the US to assist in a double murder case. And data from Fitbit fitness trackers have been used in several cases, including recently in the case of a man accused of killing his wife.
More than 400 police forces have partnered with video doorbell manufacturer Ring to access data captured from their devices (with permission from the device owners). Additionally, smart city infrastructure will increasingly be built with functionality to assist with crime prevention and detection, such as controlling traffic lights to assist police and ambulance crews to quickly reach the scene of crimes or accidents.
One network of devices that are specifically built to help tackle crime is ShotSpotter. This consists of an array of microphones attached to city infrastructure, such as street lights, that detect the sound of gunfire. It then issues real-time alerts to law enforcement officers who can react more quickly than if they have to wait for reports from witnesses to come in. The technology has been around for a while but is becoming increasingly common.

Computer vision
Computer vision has several significant use cases in policing. Perhaps most frequently, it is used for automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) to enable cameras to identify vehicles and their drivers. A more recent application is facial recognition, which has also proven controversial, with one police force in the UK having been found to be using it unlawfully. This was because it was used “indiscriminately” and with no consideration given to limiting racial or gender bias.
Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly common for police to use this technology – recent deployments in the US include identifying those involved in the January 6 capitol attacks and Black Lives Matter riots in 2020.
Computer vision is also being used in a new generation of lie detector devices, which work by analyzing microscopic movements in the eyes and face of the subject. One such system called EyeDetect has been used voluntarily on suspects, as well as being used by employers in job interviews.
Computer vision could soon even be used for Minority Report-style pre-emptive detection of crimes before they happen. Research is ongoing into applying machine learning to video data in order to create predictive algorithms that can suggest where crimes are likely to take place, based on the build-up of people in the environment, traffic, weather, and objects that can be detected in the environment. This could involve data captured from CCTV cameras or even drone footage.

Robots are clearly useful in law enforcement due to their ability to go into dangerous situations. While society and technology probably aren’t quite ready for a general-purpose Robocop, autonomous, mobile units will play an increasingly important part in a number of specialist roles in coming years.
One of the most important is disposing of bombs, suspect packages, and other suspicious and potentially dangerous items. These have been around since the 1970s, but the latest generation is controllable via VR-style headsets, as well as being capable of operating with a far greater degree of autonomy than earlier models. Robots have also been developed that can climb stairs and even jump over walls in order to avoid the need for human operators to manually place them close to the suspected bomb before they can get to work.
Robots are also used by security services and law enforcement for surveillance. The robodog created by Boston Dynamics navigates using LIDAR and is equipped with thermal cameras to spot intruders even in the dark. Plans have also been put in place to potentially enable them to be used in hostage negotiation scenarios.
The market for robots in law enforcement is forecast to reach $5.7 billion this year, so we can be sure that many more interesting use cases are likely to emerge.

Digital twins
A digital twin is a computer model of any real-world object, system, or process. It is informed by data – thanks to IoT technology and sensors – allowing it to accurately simulate whatever it is a twin of. In Guangdong, China, the provisional police department has worked with city authorities to create a real-time map of the city, showing where incidents are happening, as well as mapping public interactions, calls, use of police resources, and suspected or potential threats. Feeds from 10 separate government departments are consolidated in the model, giving the police force a complete and real-time overview through a visual data analytics platform. This means the police can simulate and assess their response to anything from city-wide emergencies to the distribution of resources in order to deal with day-to-day issues such as street robbery and community nuisance.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
VR and AR have a lot of exciting potential, which we are already seeing being put to use to make training and the day-to-day work of police officers easier. One system developed by Axom is designed to train police in a range of skills, including de-escalation of potentially violent situations and dealing with members of the public when there may be complicating factors such as hearing impairment or Alzheimer’s.
In the US, police officers in Oklahoma use a different system called Apex Officer, which helps to train to respond to calls where mental health is an issue. Other systems use 360-degree video walls that surround the trainee, rather than requiring them to wear a headset.
Away from training and in the field, AR is useful as it allows officers to remain aware of what is going on in their vicinity while augmenting their understanding of a situation with overlaid computer graphics. In China, police officers have been using AR glasses that can identify suspects and those who are wanted for questioning. The glasses, created by startup Xloong Technology, allow police to access facial and license plate recognition functions in real-time. While privacy concerns mean that this technology is unlikely to be adopted by western police forces any time soon, it’s an interesting glimpse into where the future of law enforcement technology may be heading.

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