Effective policing and timely response to city threats relies on sound and actionable intelligence. New safety solutions like advanced analytics, smart technologies and improved communications raise the quality of information gathered and drive a more proactive approach to serious crime and terrorism. The advent of the smartphone and prevalence of its usage bring an opportunity to engage citizens in efficient and real time intelligence sharing, enabling faster reaction from First Responders.
The number of smartphones is growing rapidly. Frost & Sullivan estimates that the number of smartphones shipped annually will reach 500 million units by 2015. "The presence of smart mobile devices in our societies will become increasingly ubiquitous, not only for communications and entertainment needs, but also for other uses in our daily lives," says Saverio Romeo, Frost & Sullivan Senior Industry Analyst for Information & Communication Technologies group. "Companies and public organizations are increasingly adopting intelligent devices such as smartphones and tablets for making their activities more efficient and cost-effective."
Citizen engagement with First Responders and smartphone usage in crime prevention is by no means a new concept. There are many cases where smartphones have been used to record crimes and the evidence has been provided to successfully prosecute. "A more valuable use of smartphones is capturing data and communicating with First Responders real time to prevent a threat before it occurs or to reduce response times," explains Steven Webb, Vice-President for Aerospace, Defence & Security practice.
A successful example of a smartphone programme promoting community intelligence comes from the US. iWatch Dallas offered by the local police department can be accessed trough iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Symbian platforms. The department provides citizens with guidelines about what to report and the information received is processed at the intelligence gathering unit, The Fusion Center, where decisions are taken on whether officers should be deployed to follow-up on the tip.
A further application of smartphones is leveraging the technology to improve communication and relationships with the community. Runnymede Police, UK, recently launched a new application to improve engagement with residents. The app is available to download for free and allows residents to view what crimes are happening in their area and provides live updates and the action the police are taking. The application was developed by Multizone Ltd, a social and mobile software specialist, with support provided by Vodafone and Huawei.
There are some challenges, however, when leveraging smartphones and citizen intelligence. "The citizen, uneducated in crime prevention, is likely to report a high number of false alarms or provide incomplete information that might be valuable to First Responders," notes Steven Webb. Managing and processing this level of data requires significant police resource, with advanced analytics required to leverage the information effectively.
Further concerns exist regarding privacy and this is likely to impact adoption rates at a country or regional level. The high level of video surveillance in the UK suggests that there would be higher acceptance of leveraging smart phones to empower the citizen than other European countries where CCTV and privacy is a greater concern.
Smartphone usage will only become more prevalent and police forces need to consider how they can make best use of the technology. Industry has a key role to play in helping forces find solutions for cutting through vast amounts of information to generate actionable intelligence. Police forces have different priorities and therefore information needs will differ significantly at a country, city and department level. "Systems Integrators need to work more closely with specialist technology providers and in cooperation with the First Responders to develop the right solution. The opportunity presented by smartphones to create Safe Cities is too great to ignore," summarises Steven Webb.
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