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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.

Although ShotSpotter is currently limited to identifying outdoor gunfire, the company is currently developing technology to recognize the muffled sound of a gun discharged inside a home or building, according to a CNET report.

For police, this technology means dispatchers won't be limited only to reports of shootings from witnesses which may be inaccurate or might not come at all and could help officers pin down the location of an active shooter more quickly. The technology has the potential to spur long-term change, mapping areas where gunfire is common.

The technology has already been deployed in several major cities, including Oakland, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and South Bend, Indiana. Oakland mayor Jean Quan said in April that the city had seen the largest drop in homicides among all major cities in the U.S. in 2013, due in part to the city's ShotSpotter deployment.

Wearables: Not just for officers
Some agencies, including the New York Police Department, have begun testing Google Glass to see if it can be useful for law enforcement. And although Google has expressly forbidden the use of Glass for facial recognition technology, which would allow wearers to conduct quick background searches on the people around them based only on a photo of their face, reports emerged last month claiming that the Dubai police force is issuing Glass units to officers to work with its own custom-developed facial recognition software.

For those who think Glass, which is delicate and expensive at $1,500 per unit, might not be a good fit for law enforcement, Motorola has developed the Robocop-esque HC1 Headset Computer. The device is equipped with a noise-cancelling microphone and ear bud system, allowing those working in large crowds or other noisy environments to communicate clearly. The micro display is adjustable for when users might need full vision of the area around them, and responds to voice commands to launch documents or applications.

Body-worn cameras, some of which send video directly to a cloud database where it can't be altered, appear to be on the verge of becoming mandatory nationwide. Police in Ferguson, Missouri, have reportedly begun wearing cameras in the field, and a White House petition calling for a "Michael Brown law" that would mandate police at all levels to wear cameras has more than 157,000 signatures.

And while smart bracelets and even smart clothing technology promise to monitor officers' vital signs and alert dispatchers to any sign of trouble, some companies have also developed smart wearables for canine units. Blueforce Development and embedded animal telemetry sensor company DSI partnered to create a system combining a chip implanted in dogs' bodies and a receiver attached to the standard protective vests police K9 units wear that monitors body temperature. If a K9 unit is left in the squad car and its body temperature climbs too high, the device sends a notification to officers' smartphones. The Pennsylvania K9 Assistance Foundation also says that some similar systems can automatically open windows on the car and activate a fan to cool down the dog, which could be useful in the event that officers can't make it back to the vehicle in time.


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