In January, Richard Dabate told police that someone broke into his house and killed his wife, but his wife’s Fitbit told another story. Smart, connected devices are becoming a valuable new source of evidence for law enforcement. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT).
A UK report entitled ‘Policing and the Internet of Things’ looks at the potential of the technology in law enforcement. Its authors concluded, “If the police can get to grips with the IoT now, they will not only be able to mitigate against the potential threats, but will also be able to seize the opportunity. An IoT enabled police force would lead to increased efficiency and enhanced public safety.”
So, what are some of the key areas where IoT is beginning to make a difference in law enforcement?
There are now many consumer IoT devices installed in the home and across smart cities that can enable police to know where are suspect is and what they are doing at any specific time. Security systems, sensors and alarms can inform law enforcement the moment an incident happens or a crime occurs.
As the ‘Fitbit murder’ demonstrated, IoT is making it easier and faster to gather evidence from a wider range of sources. Police forces worldwide are being trained on what to look for at a crime scene and how to handle digital evidence. Virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa or gaming consoles are capturing and providing valuable information. When handled properly, this translates into better quality evidence delivered into the court system.
Wearables for law enforcement
In recent years, the use of body-worn video and audio has grown substantially. These have proved beneficial in two important areas: they allow the officer to record exactly what happened in any incident to help with future actions, and they help build public confidence as they’ve been shown to improve officer behavior. In addition, IoT devices are able to record the vital signs of the officer, such as heart rate and blood pressure, and alert dispatchers when there are signs of trouble. Today, even police dogs are getting in on the act!
IoT-enabled firearms record exactly how and when a firearm was used, capturing vital evidence in the event of lethal use-of-force. The sensors in the firearm can include biometrics and other forms of authentication to ensure only the authorized person can activate the weapon. In addition, the IoT enabled holster informs the dispatcher as soon as it is unclipped. It can also automatically trigger recording on the officer’s body-worn camera, rather than having the camera always on or making it the officer’s responsibility to switch the camera on in high-pressure situations
Drones offer a new level of surveillance and provide an extra set of eyes when equipped with different camera types. Different sensor types help law enforcement agencies improve the quality of surveillance. Drones can be used in suspect chases, search-and-rescue, event management and many other situations. In addition, they allow law enforcement to monitor areas where officers are likely to be at risk if they were there in person.
Crime prediction and prevention
Law enforcement agencies across the globe are moving towards a data-driven approach to predicting and preventing crime. IoT allied with artificial intelligence (AI) allows for data to be captured in real time from a wide variety of sources. This allows for a picture of the scene to be established quickly. It also allows for historic data to be analyzed to create ‘heat mapping’ systems that identify criminal hotspots and help predict when and where specific crimes may occur. For example, Dutch police have run trials aimed at decreasing nighttime violence in Eindhoven.
The smart vehicle
It’s not only the officers that are becoming fully IoT-enabled – so are their vehicles. Armed with video cameras, dashboard computers and intelligent routers, these intelligent vehicles always select the best network available to stay connected to dispatch and other emergency service vehicles. Police vehicles can communicate automatically with ambulances and fire trucks to establish exactly what’s happening within an incident and communicate this back to the officers. In addition, sensors within the vehicle track details of the law enforcement officer when they leave the vehicle to continuously monitor their health and safety.
While it’s clear that IoT has great potential to improve law enforcement and public safety, there are unquestionably many ethical and moral questions around data and privacy. People have a right not to live in a ‘big brother’ society. At the same time, IoT has the potential to increase community trust and confidence in its law enforcement agencies.
Want to know more about how IoT is transforming all areas of the public sector? Visit our website.