Police agencies around the world are incorporating a variety of technological capabilities, from common smart devices to virtual and augmented realities. Forbes highlighted the following as some of the top trends right now.
Smart devices and data
As consumers upgrade their homes and attire with smart devices that track everything from deliveries to personal health indicators, investigators see this trend as an evidentiary windfall. Forbes writes that more than 400 departments have collaborated with Ring, the video doorbell manufacturer, after gaining consent from owners. The device enables cops to capture images of porch pirates and burglars as well as aids in identifying suspects, vehicles and developing investigative timelines. Voice-activated virtual assistants have proven to be key witnesses, too. Forbes states data collected by an Alexa smart speaker was used in a double-murder case.
Cities also have gotten on board, deploying smart gadgets to collect data and alert authorities. ShotSpotter, for example, tracks sounds from microphones attached to traffic infrastructure. The theory is that police response to gunshots will come faster through this system rather than waiting for human witnesses to call 9-1-1.
Voice-activated virtual assistants have proven to be key witnesses, too. Forbes states data collected by an Alexa smart speaker was used in a double-murder case.
This technology genre includes automated license plates and facial recognition readers, the latter of which has come under criticism for racial and gender bias. But it also includes technology that analyzes microscopic eye and facial movements that could prove more reliable than heart rate reactions in traditional lie detector tests.
Long used in explosive device situations, robots have become more agile, and controllers operate the latest models via virtual reality headsets instead of remote controls. They’re also being equipped with additional technology, such as thermal cameras, so officers can surveil scenes while limiting exposure of threats to their personal safety.
Virtual and augmented reality
Once regulated to video games, law enforcement organizations have adapted virtual reality (VR) programs to generate various training scenarios. Forbes reported VR simulations test officers’ efforts to de-escalate potentially violent circumstances as well as reactions to individuals who may be mentally compromised or hearing impaired.
Augmented reality (AR) software could be employed to enhance environmental input, such as AR glasses running facial recognition on public crowds. Used in China, according to Forbes, such technology most likely would face strong opposition in the United States due to privacy and civil liberty concerns.
Digital twinning isn’t like creating holograms or deepfakes for Hollywood films, but more like cloning objects, systems or processes in digital form. The technology could assist departments in simulating and assessing responses, emergency coverage and resource deployment. Again, Forbes cites use by departments in China but does not confirm instances by U.S. law enforcement agencies.
Although there are ongoing concerns regarding how technology could interfere with or violate protected rights, as long as criminals use it for their dirty deeds, law enforcement will continue to advance their high-tech skills and technical armory.