The fitness watch on your wrist that can track where you run. The game console in your home that can record when you play. The smart speaker in your kitchen that can record what you say. Whilst our lives continue to be transformed by technology, not many people understand the sheer power of these devices and how they can, if necessary, factor in to a police investigation. Arrests have already been made based on evidence collected from connected devices and this is just the beginning for IoT-based law enforcement.
Digital evidence now plays a key role in the fight against crime, so much so that law enforcement agencies now train personnel on what to look for at crime scenes from a digital point of view. As we continue to rely on our devices for entertainment, work, communication and convenience, there will inevitably be a longer trail for crime fighters to follow when solving a case.
The focus on new technology also reaches beyond the consumer environment. Patrolmen can be equipped with body cameras that provide an impartial view of events for both officers and who they interact with. Squad cars can be fitted with GPS projectiles that can track a perpetrator’s vehicle, helping to prevent high-speed pursuits. Sensors can be fitted to sidearms to track whether a weapon has been unholstered or discharged. All this information can feed into a case and can even be used as evidence in criminal trials.
Applications can also support canine operations as companies begin trialling smart wearables for canine units. In a similar fashion to domestic microchipping, a small device can be implanted to monitor body temperature. If an animal is left in a vehicle and its body temperature gets too high, this device can send a notification to the officer alerting them to the animal’s status. Similar systems could take this further and automatically open the windows or even activate cool down measures such as a fan or an in-vehicle water dispenser.
Many law enforcement agencies are also experimenting with “predictive policing”. Based on data gathered over time, agencies can now classify individuals and gauge the probability of them committing a future offence. Although systems like this can be incredibly accurate, there are studies that warn of algorithmic tools and the judgments they can inherit from those that program them.
By integrating a city’s infrastructure with real-time monitoring data, police and law enforcement agencies could narrow down the location of a crime significantly quicker. Applications are in-development that rely on a network of connected microphones across a city, school, campus or business. By focusing on a particular type of sound, such as a gunshot, these applications could estimate the location of a gun by measuring how long the sound takes to travel and from what direction. Solutions this like have the potential to drive real and long-term change by mapping high gun crime areas and channelling this data into legislative efforts against gun violence.
Then we come to robotics – a futuristic technology on the rise within law enforcement. Dubai is one of the first cities to deploy a 100% robotic police officer with plans to have robots make up 25% of the force by 2030. Speaking 6 languages with facial recognition technology, a touch screen and a live streaming camera, this officer is deployed to popular tourist spots to help deter criminal activity. Whilst its human counterparts are expected to make arrests in the field, could we soon be issuing badges to robotic police officers?
When we deploy new technologies powered by AI, IoT, machine learning or algorithms, there are always concerns regarding the privacy of individuals and the safety of our communities. From a consumer point of view, are we comfortable knowing that our devices can monitor us in such ways? As innovators, should we be holding back for the sake of privacy? As law enforcers, can we maintain security whilst preserving privacy? These are questions we will all face as this technology becomes less of a concept and more of a reality.