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Speech Analytics for Emergency Communications

Written by Diego Lomanto

On a daily basis, law enforcement officials ask public safety answer points (PSAPs) to retrieve 9-1-1 call recordings to collect evidence, review call content and note the date/time of calls. What if PSAPs could do more than simply hand over the recorded conversations? What if investigators could leverage calls in the 9-1-1 center to piece together a flow of events, surface evidence and detect related, yet previously undetected, calls that could add depth to an investigation?

At the same time, what if PSAPs could spot trends in call volumes that could serve as early warnings of future incidents? And what if PSAP supervisors could isolate the best responders to each type of emergency and create best practice training that could be distributed to the entire center?

Speech Analytics

Speech analytics software has been around for a decade in commercial settings, but has only recently entered the public safety arena to help PSAPs accomplish the goals mentioned above. Commercial businesses have deployed and used speech analytics in their contact centers for years to surface key trends about their customer base and operations.

These same organizations have viewed the contact center, and the intelligence generated from their speech analytics deployments, as a source of feedback and intelligence on products, services, promotions, satisfaction and more. Such insight has also been applied to determine how to fix processes or problems, not only in customer service operations, but throughout the organization.

Similarly, public safety organizations can take data from 9-1-1 calls to assist in investigations and surface emerging trends, which leads to a more proactive and preventive response in the community. And with the verifiable data the technology brings to light, it can indicate if a particular process needs to be improved or changed. Taken further, the same analytics technology can help PSAPs heighten their response times and effectiveness by identifying staff training and development opportunities.

How Does It Work?

Speech analytics software has been used in other security arenas for years, though it tended to be more limited to those who had the budget to invest in emerging technologies, such as for anti-terrorism efforts. The recent mainstream emergence of speech analytics in public safety is a result of the convergence of computer hardware, sophisticated software and linguistics becoming available on a broader scale.

Speech analytics has the ability to index every word and phrase identified for context and meaning. In addition to searching by individual words or phrases, it can even make context-based suggestions. The technology processes calls after they have taken place and creates a Complete Semantic Index™ of conversations using both phonetics and Large Vocabulary Continuous Speech Recognition (LVCSR).

Leveraging multiple technologies in a speech analytics engine enables both rapid searches and deeper layers of system-driven analysis, which leads to findings that may not have been uncovered without guidance from the speech analytics application.

Proactively Spotting Trends

Another way speech analytics can help public safety agencies is by detecting emerging trends. For instance, if there is a rise in calls regarding light gang activity, such as loitering or vandalism, speech analytics can surface that trend without predefinition or direction from the PSAP user. It simply delivers the types of calls that show the sharpest increase (or decrease) in occurrence over the last day, week, month or several months. These trends often serve as a precursor to incidents—allowing public safety agencies to be better prepared and even able to take preventive action.

This past year, a Pennsylvania PSAP put speech analytics and call recording technology into action in its operation. It had experienced a string of porch fire arson incidents. As part of the investigative process, the fire department compiled a list of all the house addresses in which these arson activities occurred. By then using speech analytics, the PSAP was able to identify other such crimes by searching through its 9-1-1 calls. What it discovered was that a number of other addresses had similar crime scenarios. This data was not information the fire and police departments had easily available previously.

Speech analytics is a sophisticated tool that aids investigators in leveraging 9-1-1 interactions in ongoing investigations. But taken further, it can also help today’s PSAPs achieve accurate and efficient call handling and dispatching for high-quality citizen service.

Maximizing Emergency Response Best Practices

Historically, reviewing enough calls to identify performance trends and challenges has been a manual task that many centers have not had the resources or budget to fulfill. Public safety operations have also often lacked formalized quality and analysis processes—such as those available through integrated voice/screen recordings—leaving them only a limited view of what is really happening across their operations.

One way a PSAP’s quality supervisor can improve call handling is by finding recorded interactions in which call takers handled certain types of situations well, and then leveraging those interactions to create best-practice training scenarios for call takers and dispatchers alike.

With speech analytics, PSAPs have the ability to conduct proactive trend spotting to uncover issues before they become widespread problems. Armed with this technology and intelligence, today’s public safety organizations have the tools they need to conduct guided, visual searches to uncover insights within all related recorded calls and to support investigators in uncovering facts during emergency situations.

By determining root causes early enough, law enforcement can be better equipped to initiate preventive measures and help curtail incidents and crimes. This kind of analysis also provides law enforcement officials with a “big picture” on patterns and trends in the community—ranging from spikes in crime to addressing the need for increased public education on fire safety.

Diego Lomanto serves as senior solutions marketing manager for Verint® Systems, where he focuses on the company’s full range of analytics software. He has authored numerous articles on analytics technology and is a frequent speaker at industry events. He may be reached at diego.lomanto@verint.com.

Published in Law and Order, Apr 2011

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