How countries are policing with data

By Abdallah Zabian

Dubai and the UK are leading the way by integrating analytics and facial recognition to keep their citizens safe.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow developed a theory of human psychology: the well-known ‘hierarchy of needs’. Maslow identified safety as one of the most basic needs of any human being.

Safety is crucial for communities to survive and thrive. In this day and age, threats to public safety and security are becoming increasingly diverse, pervasive and complex.

By taking an innovative and integrated approach, safety and security agencies can identify threats, take action earlier and become more effective at protecting people and saving lives.

Emergency response

I am part of the team that helped design and implement Dubai’s smart platform as a new approach to public safety. Dubai are also trialing a ‘police without policemen’ initiative in hopes of achieving “the highest levels of security and safety for our people without the need for policemen being present on-ground 24/7”, noted General Abdullah Al Merri, Dubai Police Commander-in-Chief.

First, the agency is installing cameras on fences and around homes, keeping an eye on communities even with no policemen around. They are also launching a surveillance blimp that monitors large areas, acting as an early warning system in the sky. The police are also exploring how to replace the need to build traditional police stations with roving squads that can respond faster to emergencies.

Another key strategy involves the responsible use of citizens’ data within the Dubai government’s repositories. For instance, in the event of an emergency, first responders could detect your location via sensors, cameras, and GPS on your phone, and come to your aid instantly.

How will this look in practice? An effective public safety and security solution will likely take the form of a dashboard that collects data from various sources - CCTV cameras, mobile phones, traffic lights, Google, as well as others. These dashboards will digest these data points and provide a top-down look at a current situation as it develops.

The benefit is that it can help various agencies work together more seamlessly, as every second can be the difference between life and death. In the example of a fire, this dashboard will be able to identify the emergency vehicles that need to be deployed and the fastest route for ambulances to take.

Reactive to preventive

Facial recognition is currently under-used, but could be integral to safety systems of the future.

We have worked with some police departments to develop a system that could identify the faces of wanted individuals should they board or get off metro trains, and quickly dispatch police units. During massive events such as the World Cup or the Olympics, this system augments the ability of police officers, providing multiple eyes and ears.

With these systems, governments can react more quickly to a situation that otherwise could be a catastrophe. Imagine that police will be able to respond faster to protect people from harmful individuals or groups. Operators will be able to dispatch emergency units to the right location immediately; Should a perpetrator attempt to escape from a country, border agencies could put their image up and assist in their capture easily.

Speedier, more efficient safety services also deter people from actually committing crimes. If people knew that they would be arrested within 30 minutes of committing a crime, they would reconsider carrying it out in the first place.

Safety forms the very basis of our modern lives. It is easier than ever before for countries to detect and deter wrongdoers; the question is are you going to get involved in keeping our communities safe.

This blog post is authored by Abdallah Zabian, General Manager, Security, Asia at DXC Technology.