Law Enforcement Tech Innovations: A Review of the Past and a Move to the Future

Getac Video Solutions

After a decade of enormous growth and innovation in law enforcement technology, Getac Video Solutions is building on the past, looking toward the future and anticipating continued development in the years to come.

9 Innovations Between 2010 and 2020

The 2010s were a tremendous decade for change in police technology, according to James Murphy III, Director of Sales at Getac Video. The reason for the expansion was a combination of technology continuing to advance, the public requesting more transparency from government agencies with the assistance of technology, and the role of the police officer evolving to meet the changing times.

According to Murphy, there are three main areas where police technology advancements took place over the last decade, wearable and in-car video technology, mobile surveillance, and cloud technologies.

1. Wearable video cameras

While the idea and technology have been around since the early 2000s, before the mid-2010s, a wearable video camera was just a different version of the in-car camera system, but on a person. Around 2014, the technology took a huge leap, and police body-worn cameras (BWC) became what we know today.

“After 2014, it was a whole different ballgame,” said Murphy. “[The BWC] became more than just a recording device; it became an edge device.” That difference is game-changing, since edge devices “bring computation and data storage closer to the devices where it’s being gathered, rather than relying on a central location that can be thousands of miles away. This is done so that data, especially real-time data, does not suffer latency issues that can affect an application’s performance,” according to Network World.

Getac Video Solutions

2. Drones

The use of drones for gathering GIS mapping data increased during the last ten years. Previously, law enforcement agencies had to hire helicopters to map city streets, gather high-resolution data, collect building measurements and, on the rare occasion, search for suspects who had fled. Drones have proven to be a much more cost-effective replacement for hiring helicopters and a more feasible option for smaller departments.

3. Non-lethal weapons

During the past decade, departments have been searching for more non-lethal ways to subdue suspects, as a way to both reduce officer casualty as well as civilian casualty. Non-lethal weapons are designed to shock, disarm and/or halt a suspect without necessarily causing harm by way of penetration through the skin and tissue. Such non-lethal weapons include stun guns, shocks, tethers, foam batons, rubber bullets, Kevlar BolaWraps and more.

4. Mobile surveillance

Fixed surveillance has always had a presence in law enforcement, but with two significant drawbacks–including cost and a finite field of view–they were proving to be less beneficial. Recently, departments found creative ways to use fixed cameras to solve at least one of those issues; mounting fixed cameras on mobile trailers, which can be moved around and used in a variety of different scenarios.

5. RFID technologies

New laws passed in recent years to ensure data integrity and security require two-factor authentication (2FA), so the use of RFID badges became popular. Police officers now carry an RFID card with them to log into their computers or tablets to ensure the safety of the data on their devices. “The customization of having RFID embedded in the computer became really big in the last decade,” Murphy said.

6. Scanning technology

Two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) scanners have also become an essential law enforcement tool over the last decade. With the change in driver license to include barcodes on the back, the days of having to type in someone’s name, DOB, address, etc. are gone. Instead, scanning the barcode populates all of the information you need.

7. Reporting software

“Moving things away from paper and taking it digital” was another huge change over the last decade, according to Murphy. For example, crash reports used to require someone to draw and describe an accident scene with a pencil and paper, including information like where the skid patterns were. Now, crash reporting is done with a digital program that allows for greater accuracy and easier access.

8. Citizen interaction

As technology continues to evolve, another key focus over the last decade was determining how to bring in data from the community to help solve crimes and keep the community safe.

9. Cloud technologies

“If you were to create one of those boards that has all the key terms from the decade and it was only focused on policing, the cloud would probably be really big and somewhere in the center,” Murphy said. Cloud technologies are utilized in many ways, including applications and data storage; everything is moving in a cloud direction, he stated.

Helping the Police and Public with Police Technology Advancements

These technological improvements have made an enormous impact on both the police officers and those they serve and protect.

Looking Towards the Next Decade in Police Technology

Law enforcement technology is ever-changing, and a new decade brings lots of time for innovation. Murphy believes several technologies will transform policing in the next decade.

Four law enforcement technologies the 2020s may bring

1. Drones

While drones have continued to grow in popularity over the last few years, concerns around certified and qualified drone operators, a lack of laws, and technology issues prevented drones from being as widely used as anticipated. With recently enacted legislation and improvements to drone technology, Murphy believes “this decade is going to be big for drone technology.”

2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a term that has been thrown around for a while, but I think this is the decade where we really see leaps and bounds,” Murphy said. AI is only as good as the engine you train, and that takes a while, but we are now just reaching that stage.

3. Facial recognition

Police facial recognition technology, identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or a video, is also going to be significant in the next decade, according to Murphy. Facial recognition overlaps and interacts slightly with AI since both require an engine that has been trained for a specific task. As those engines become more well-trained, the technology will continue to improve.

4. Smart Sensors

“I think smart sensors will have a huge role in the next decade,” Murphy said. Yet this overarching umbrella term can include several branches since a smart sensor is defined as “anything that feeds data back to a machine.”

Biometric smart sensors – In the consumer world, you have the Apple Watch, but imagine officers wearing a smartwatch that can talk back to software about the scene or environment. If the officer’s heart rate jumped before they were able to call for help or backup, someone at the central command can see this officer’s heart rate racing, and be proactive calling in others to assist the officer.

Smart sensor devices – Murphy also anticipates that hardware devices are all going to become smart sensors throughout the next decade. From assisting fleet management by having sensors report on oil life, tire air pressure, etc. to having smart sensors built into body armor to notify dispatch if an officer has been stabbed or shot, Murphy believes they are going to change the future of policing.

Getac Video is proud to outfit law enforcement agencies with the latest cutting-edge technology built for today and tomorrow.