Home A Look at How the IoT is Transforming Law Enforcement for the Better

A Look at How the IoT is Transforming Law Enforcement for the Better

Law enforcement is always looking for ways to improve technology and expand capabilities. Could the IoT provide the boost these departments need to enhance safety and achieve better results?

Refresher: What is the IoT?

If you’re in the law enforcement industry, you’re probably not familiar with what the IoT actually is. You know the name and could probably give a vague definition, but you’re unclear on the specifics (and how it fits into your industry). But don’t worry – I’m going to set the table for you.

In the simplest terms, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a network that closely connects uniquely identifiable “things” to the internet. Here’s even more clarity for you:

  • Internet: The large collection of applications and protocols within the network.
  • Things: Any object that’s capable of connecting to the internet. This includes sensors, smart devices, computers, and other entities with communicative abilities.

The goal of the IoT is to establish relationships from people to people, people to things, and things to things. And in an industry where connectivity can mean the difference between life and death, the IoT has a critically significant role to play in law enforcement moving forward.

6 Ways the IoT is Changing Police Work

Okay, now that we’ve laid a foundation for you, let’s explore some of the specific ways in which the IoT is changing or will change the law enforcement industry for the better.

1. Smart Sensors

Smart sensors are at the core of the IoT. Little sensors, embedded into everything from smartphones to car engines, are recording and transmitting valuable data to law enforcement in a variety of capacities – even solving crimes on occasion.

Consider the case of Connie Dabate, who was fatally shot with a .357 Magnum in 2017. When police arrived at the scene, they found her deceased in her home. They also found her husband, Richard Dabate, tied up and partially bound to a metal chair in the kitchen.

Richard told investigators that armed intruders came into the home and killed his wife. He said he managed to escape by using a blowtorch on the intruders as they attempted to bind him to the chair.

But Connie’s Fitbit device told a different story. Data from the smart band showed she was moving around the house at 10:05 a.m. – a full hour after Richard claimed she was fatally shot in the head by the intruders.

In addition to the Fitbit data, investigators also discovered that Connie had posted three videos by 9:46 a.m. that morning. Plus, movement on the couple’s home security system didn’t align with Richard’s description of the attack.

A treasure trove of other information – including incriminating bank records and witness testimony was later discovered – but it was the sensor data from the Fitbit and smart security system that ultimately uncovered Richard’s guilt.

Sensors might be bad news for criminals, but they’re welcomed with open arms by investigators who are always looking for additional information to support or guide their search for evidence. As millions of new IoT devices are purchased and installed each year, this will become an increasingly important element of police work.

2. IoT-Enabled Firearms

Firearms have been a hot button issue over the past few years – especially in the world of policing. Could the IoT provide solutions that protect both police officers and citizens?

A number of companies are hard at work innovating technology that we’ll call “IoT-enabled firearms.” These are firearms that would be embedded with sensors to record important information about how and when it was used – potentially capturing vital evidence if there’s a need for lethal use of force. There’s even hope that biometrics can be included as a form of authentication, which would prevent an unauthorized individual from activating the weapon.

Yardarm is one of the leading names in the IoT-enabled firearm space. And while they aren’t in the business of manufacturing firearms, they’re actively developing smart accessories and solutions that aim to make policing safer.

Their Holster Aware product works with any leading firearm and tracks important information through strategically optimized sensors. This includes comprehensive telemetry like holster state, weapon discharge, racking the slide, magazine insertion, weapon orientation, weapon jams, and magazine removals. Real-time alerts can then be sent to dispatch to automatically signal the need for backup.

While this technology is still being ironed out, the hope is that it’ll protect police officers whose motives often come into question and provide law enforcement agencies with evidence to support the innocence of their officers in lethal situations where their lives were put at risk.

3. Drone Surveillance

There are often situations where law enforcement has difficulty reaching a location. This might include dangerous topography, rooftops, or remote locations. In these instances, sending a police officer into a situation could pose a threat to their lives. In some jurisdictions, IoT-powered drones are being used to counteract these dangerous circumstances.

Drones have the ability to hover above very precise locations that demand surveillance and, when equipped with a camera, act as a first or second pair of eyes. Most advanced drones have the ability to track real-time footage, while others record and store the video on the cloud for later access. Certain drones even have technology that can zero in on specific targets (like people and animals).

While drones are often used in specific situations where there’s a hostage or search party, they can also be used around the clock to monitor comings and goings in investigative situations. They’re also fantastic for monitoring large crowds at public events.

The best way to think of drones is as unarmed surveillance vehicles that provide an “eye in the sky” with minimal risk to all parties involved.

4. Smart Watches

While fitness trackers can help expose the “bad guys,” like Richard Dabate, smart watches are also popular among law enforcement officers. Uses include:

  • Quick communication
  • Location tracking
  • Monitoring vitals
  • Tracking stress levels
  • Tracking sleep patterns

When deployed across an entire police department, there’s typically an increase in overall health and productivity.

5. Fleet Management

Managing a fleet of hundreds of police cars in a city is a challenging task. But with IoT solutions, connecting individual vehicles within the fleet is easier than ever.

Cisco IoT is one of the leaders in this space. They’ve automated key processes and provided highly secure and reliable connectivity to every device and sensor on every vehicle in a fleet. This includes license-plate readers, dash cams, gun sensors, tough-pad/PCs, etc. The system can also track speed, location, and fuel consumption (with the ultimate goal of making police cars as safe and efficient as possible).

6. Crime Prediction and Prevention

What if law enforcement agencies could predict when and where crimes happen and actually prevent them from occurring in the first place? That’s the ultimate dream – and it might not be as far-fetched as you think.

Law enforcement agencies around the world are experimenting with data-driven systems that, when combined with artificial intelligence (AI), have the ability to create  heat maps that identify criminal hot spots. Based on this information, they can predict where a crime is most likely to occur at a specific time and increase police presence in these areas.

What Does the Future Hold?

Predicting the future of technology is a fool’s game. Innovation moves at a rapid pace and a single iteration can change the entire trajectory in a moment’s notice. But this much we know to be true: The law enforcement industry is always looking for ways to improve speed, efficiency, accuracy, and communication – and the IoT promises each of these benefits (and more). What that means remains to be seen. But for now, the goal is to create as many intersections as possible so that police officers and law enforcement agents have as many resources as they need to perform their jobs at a high level.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Frank Landman

Frank is a freelance journalist who has worked in various editorial capacities for over 10 years. He covers trends in technology as they relate to business.

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