Once public safety officials such as police, emergency medical technicians, and firefighters had two things they could rely on in the field – their intuition, and the radio they used to contact headquarters. Once in awhile an emergency vehicle would come equipped with a video camera, but that was used mostly to record incidents for evidence purposes, or to ensure that public safety workers (and the authorities that employed them) were “covered” in the case of a lawsuit, complaint, etc.
LMR (land-mobile radio), as that communications technology is known, is fine as far as it goes – which in today’s world is not too far, according to Paul Steinberg, vice president and chief technology officer of Motorola Solutions. “Today, users have the ability to send images, video, social media messages, and much more. Now every civilian with a smartphone is a source of information for public safety workers.”
Implementation of those technologies for use by the professionals has been much slower, though, and Motorola Solutions, said Steinberg, intends to change that.
Steinberg was speaking in Israel at a recent event sponsored by Motorola Solutions on the technological future of homeland security. While the event was aimed at “first responders” of all types, “homeland security” is, of course, the domain of police and other security agencies, and the presentation was clearly geared to law enforcement and homeland security teams, both of which were well represented in the audience of about 1,000.
And police certainly have something to look forward to. From mere voice communications with base, cops and security personnel of the future will have access to the most up to date technologies in their equipment. Sensors, video cameras built into sunglasses, GPS and dead reckoning technology, wifi and 4G+ communication systems, extra bandwidth reserved specifically for law enforcement and homeland security, augmented reality– all this will become standard equipment in a short time.
In a typical scenario, an officer will pull over an individual for a traffic infraction and beam an image of the vehicle’s license plate or registration using a camera built into his sunglasses back to headquarters, where it will be looked up (the camera, of course, allows for a 360 degree view, giving officers “eyes in the back of their heads”). If the driver has any outstanding infractions, the officer will let him or her know, and with a mini-printer in the officer’s vehicle, a ticket will be printed out on the spot.
If the individual is wanted for other, more serious things, headquarters will let the officer know as well, and will also automatically alert other police in the area to arrive for backup. Using augmented reality software, a video image of the suspect is analyzed, and if s/he begins to make any suspicious moves, the officer will be alerted in advance. If the suspect tries to escape, the officer will be able to track him or her with his video camera, with location chips in the equipment letting headquarters, and backup, know the officer’s location at all times.
The same technologies will be included in vehicles, said Steinberg. “The driver’s seat will have a lot more tools, with voice activated controls to bring up video recording, tracking, augmented reality, location services, and even an on the road workstation. We call it the integrated cockpit.” The hardware to run this system will be built into the vehicle, with much of it deployed in the trunk. In addition, much work is being done to improve networks, and the recent allocation of cellular network bandwidth in the U.S. specifically to public safety needs will enable officers to use the technologies being developed much more efficiently.
While all these technologies exist and are used every day, few have been used in law enforcement and homeland security, Steinberg said, partially because arranging all the necessary tools in a package that is easy, convenient, and reliable has been a challenge, and the company has developed a number of solutions to enable officers to get the tool they need when they need it. “The more tools, the more effort we have to put in to use them. Individuals can manage, but for a cop or a fireman in the field, accessing these tools has to be second nature.” Part of the development of these systems involves enhancing voice command technology, letting officers activate the tool they need while keeping their hands free.
Much of the work Motorola Solutions is doing in this area is being conducted at the company’s large research and development center in Airport City. On display at the show were a number of devices and systems that Motorola plans to sell in the new future, much of them based on made in Israel technology – with some, such as the company’s LEX 700 Mission Critical Handheld fully developed here.
“As we develop and build systems we will be rolling them out here in Israel, where they will be tweaked and then implemented elsewhere,” said Steinberg. “Israel is the example for others when it comes to homeland security.” Israel has the trained personnel and the unfortunate experience of having to deal with homeland security issues in a much more intensive way than any other country, he added, and the confluence of trained personnel and experience in dealing with security issues makes Israel the best place to develop homeland security technologies.
And for those who think that his description of the “cop of the future” sounds a bit 1984-ish, Steinberg reminds us that law enforcement and homeland security officers are really only playing catch-up. “The bad guys already have, and use, these tools,” he said. “We have to make sure the good guys get them, so they can get ahead and stay there, in order to ensure the safety of the public.”