Three big trends for the future of public safety

By Khai Hwa Toh

Digital transformation, artificial intelligence and data analytics are the way forward for police officers.

Imagine this: a world where crimes can be stopped before they occur, and where police officers can crack cases in record time. This may have been an unrealistic dream 20 years ago, but now, it is no longer a distant impossibility.

Across the world, the police are using artificial intelligence and data analytics to develop new tools and methods of working, so they can catch criminals more quickly and efficiently.

DXC Technology has identified three big trends for the future of public safety. Here are case studies from across Asia and the world of how public safety agencies are going through digital transformation; using artificial intelligence; and enabling cyber analytics.

1. Digital transformation

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has set up a digital unit to research and develop tech-enabled tools that help officers work more efficiently. “It’s useful internally to have a part of the police force that sees themselves maybe first as a technological organisation, rather than a police organisation,” said Assistant Commissioner Alvin Moh, Director of Planning and Organisation Department of the Singapore Police Force, at the Innovation Labs World summit.

His agency is building a police smartphone with custom apps that will transmit real-time information on the ground 24/7 to officers. Police officers “will be able to make better and faster decisions, [and have] more effective response”, K. Shanmugam, Minister of Law and Home Affairs, announced at the SPF's annual workplan seminar in May. From next March onwards, 8000 front-line police officers will be able to use their smartphones to respond to incidents.

According to Moh, it is essential for the police to reinvent their investigation methods to keep up with new modes of crime. “The old mode of working is, I seize the laptop, I want to get it analysed, I send it to my tech experts. Moving forward, that cannot be the case anymore, it’s too many devices,” Moh remarked. Police robots will soon patrol and engage with residents to complement the patrol work of real officers, he said.

These patrol robots are equipped with cameras that transmit a 360-degree view of their environments to their command posts in real-time. During its patrol, the cameras can detect and flag suspicious activities, so police officers can be swiftly deployed to the scene.

The Home Team Academy has begun using virtual and augmented reality to create more immersive and realistic training environments for its police officers. “We have started to embrace training simulators, augmented reality”, said Moh. These augmented environments train officers by simulating potential incidents like terror attacks, which officers can respond to.

Handheld scanners now allow officers to take real-time 3D scans of crime scenes. They take measurements of objects found at crime scenes without physically measuring the real object.

2. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is now helping police officers to identify crime patterns and stop future crimes. “Based on accumulated experience or data, they can predict how much percent of this would be happening,” Noboru Nakatani, Executive Director of the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in Singapore told GovInsider.

The Netherlands is using AI algorithms to analyse huge amounts of investigation requests, so its police officials can sieve out important intelligence on potential threats. “Sometimes, very valuable information can end up in a file, in an office. But what if in this file is crucial information about a potential terrorist group?” said Anita Hazenberg, Innovation Director of the IGCI. AI allows police agencies to be “more efficient towards each other with law enforcement co-operation,” she added.

Meanwhile, police officers can now outsource tasks to AI and robotics, so they have more time to work on more complicated cases. “In a couple of years, some police functions will hardly exist. There will be robots,” Hazenberg predicted.

The Dubai Police has built smart police stations that are run entirely by AI-powered robots. “There are no human beings there,” she said. The smart police station, which operates 24/7, provides services like crime reporting, lost-and-found requests, and victim support, and receives labour complaints and home security requests.

3. Cyber analytics

As cyberspace becomes the new domain for warfare, cyber attacks are now the new norm. In June, the personal information of 1.5 million patients were stolen from Singapore’s SingHealth servers - the country’s largest cyber breach to date. Meanwhile, last year’s WannaCry ransomware attacks infected tens of thousands of computers across 74 countries, Wired reported.

Countries are fighting back against cyber threats with big data analytics. Australia, for one, is building a national network of cyber threat sharing centres to detect and protect its citizens from malicious cyber attacks.

In these sharing centres, cyber security experts from academia, businesses and government can pool sensitive data on cyber threats in an online sharing portal. They then use big data analytics to detect patterns of malicious cyber activity and implement adaptive, data-driven ways of responding to cyber threats. So far, the federal government has set up centres in four major cities - Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney - with plans to roll more out across Australia.

At the state level, the New South Wales (NSW) government has inked an AUD$11 million deal with Data61 - Australia’s largest data innovation group - to use data analytics to identify cyber threats in real-time. “Cyber security has emerged as one of the most high profile, borderless and rapidly evolving risks facing governments across the globe, so it is essential we are at the forefront of new ideas and thinking,” announced Victor Dominello, NSW’s Minister for Finance, Services and Property, in a press statement.

With tech-enabled tools for crime fighting, police officers are transforming the very face of law enforcement to keep their cities and communities safer.

Khai Hwa Toh is General Manager for Defence and Homeland Security at DXC Technology.