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How the Internet of Things is transforming law enforcement

Colin Neagle | Nov. 4, 2014
From connected guns to wearables for canine units, the IoT is spurring change in the law enforcement field.

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is starting to make waves in law enforcement. From connected guns that remember exactly when and how they were fired to wearable smart devices designed for police dogs, the IoT is becoming a go-to solution not only to improve law enforcement officers' capabilities, but also to increase accountability and public safety.

Here are some examples of IoT products and services that are just beginning to have an impact on law enforcement.

Smart firearms and accessories
Smart guns are one of the most well-known breakthroughs for law enforcement, especially in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Ferguson, Missouri, teenager Michael Brown in August.

A startup called Yardarm Technologies has attracted a lot of attention lately. Its smart gun concept is equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope, wireless GSM, and Bluetooth low energy to monitor and record data every time it is discharged.

The technology appeals both to officer safety and transparency when officers use their weapons. The sensor and location features keep track of the gun's position and exact timing when shots were fired, helping to remove some of the mystery when police use their weapons, and can also send automatic alerts notifying dispatchers and other officers exactly when and where to provide backup.

The data gathered is encrypted and sent to Yardarm's cloud before it is processed by the police departments' customized software, which departments can design for their own specific uses. Police departments in Santa Cruz, California, and Carrollton, Texas, have already begun testing the technology, and Yardarm plans to launch officially in early 2015.

Yardarm's system still remains controversial, as police who have used basically the same firearms for a century will be skeptical to rely on a new, relatively untested technology, especially for their most important piece of equipment. Yardarm's internet-connected gun also joins several other smart gun breakthroughs, such as guns equipped with biometric fingerprint sensors on their triggers or RFID chips paired with smart bracelets to ensure the gun can only be fired by the officer to whom it was assigned.

All of these technologies carry the potential to transform the most dangerous and controversial aspect of law enforcement, and even though they all face resistance, they're sure to have some kind of impact eventually.

Real-time gunshot monitoring
A system called ShotSpotter recognizes when gun shots are fired in public and helps police identify where the gun that fired them might be located.

Developed by a company called SST, the system relies on connected microphones installed throughout a city, town, or college campus. The microphones can cover up to 10 square miles, and are designed to measure the range of "sounds which are explosive in nature," according to the company website. The microphones send the data recorded when they hear a gunshot to a police departments' computer, which measures the time it took for the sound to reach the microphone to estimate the location of the gun.


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