Written by Thomas M. Manson
The 114th Annual International Association of Chiefs of Police conference held this year in year New Orleans drew 13,000 chiefs of police and other agency decision makers. The 500,000 square feet within the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center was dedicated to the Law Enforcement Education and Technology Exposition providing display space for more than 750 product manufacturers and companies.
Many companies wait to release new products at the major conferences like IACP, but this year’s conference was filled with products in which computers and technology played an especially large role. This was evidence by the overflow of companies from the Computer Pavilion, the space usually dedicated to technical-related products. After quickly filling up the space in this pavilion, computer-related products and companies were placed into other areas throughout the exhibit hall where space was available. The following is a partial list of some of the emerging technologies and products found at this year’s 2007 IACP conference. Aerovironment Raven RQ-11B
Why it’s a big deal: Low altitude aerial surveillance platform. Application: Aerial monitoring of large areas of land: disasters, rescues scenes, hazardous areas. Unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs have gotten a boost from their high-profile deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Originally developed as surveillance platforms carrying only cameras and radios, their use as offensive weapons was quickly realized after the addition of mounted hard points for munitions.
The Raven RQ-11B, an enhanced version of the military’s Raven A, which has been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, is now available for U.S. civilian law enforcement. Hand launched, the 3-foot-long (4.5 wingspan) RQ-11B is capable of flying at 500 feet above ground for nearly two hours at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour in either autonomous (preprogrammed) or manually controlled flight. The battery-operated RQ-11B can operate at a distance of over 6 miles from its operator, providing real-time color or infrared imagery to multiple remote viewing stations.
Still battlefield ready, the Raven B is portable, lightweight, and quickly assembled onsite. After flying its mission, the UAV will return to its original launch location, cut its engine and land safety. Sold to the military at prices hovering around $200,000 for three UAVs, telemetry, and spare parts, the U.S. civilian law enforcement versions should be priced lower. Camero Inc. Xaver 800
Why it’s a big deal: It sees through concrete. Applications: Tactical team situation awareness, hostage rescue, anti-smuggling operations. Seeing through walls has been the stuff of science fiction and Superman for generations. Several companies have devices that see through cracks or under doors; few have devices that can see through up to 20 inches of concrete. Camero Inc. of Virginia featured its through-wall sensing device, the Xaver™800. Utilizing ultra wideband (UWB) microwave signals, the X800 is capable of detecting static and moving objects and rendering them in 3-D.
Portable and lightweight—only 22 pounds—it can provide 3-D images of objects concealed by solid barriers such as walls, made from a variety of known materials including cement, plaster, brick, concrete and wood. The 3-D capability projects up to 26 feet behind walls with total penetration of up to 65 feet. Combat Training Center Headquarters - Canadian Army, Training Innovations Division - FLETC Canadian Forces: Direct Action
Why it’s a big deal: Computer-based simulation to train personnel in a safe, immersive 3-D environment. Application: Hostage situations, critical incidents, active shooter. Video games have come a long way since Pong (1972) and Asteroids (1979). Viewed as a “waste of time” a generation ago, video games are now being adapted for use in law enforcement simulation training.
The Training Innovations Division of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center has partnered with the Combat Training Center Headquarters of the Canadian Army to utilize its adaption of a popular simulation game, SWAT4, in tactical simulation training of U.S. law enforcement.
In the commercial version of the game, the player “sees” through the eyes of a tactical officer walking through a photorealistic 3-D environment. The player’s hands and weapons are clearly visible as he engages suspects. Unlike more popular First Person Shooters (FPS), as this genre of games is known, SWAT4 does not require players to kill everything in their paths. Some characters in the game will be innocent civilians who need only be detained for questioning.
In the law enforcement version adapted by the Canadian Army and FLETC multiple players (i.e. actual tactical officers in front of an equipped computer) can join and participate in customized simulations utilizing internal networks or Internet connections. The simulation can be utilized for training in basic techniques (i.e. door breaches and flash bang deployment) and for more complicated pre-plans based on actual surveilled locations.
The level of realism found in the 3-D version of the simulation when compared with actual intelligence photographs is nothing less than stunning. A design tool allows personnel to recreate any structure, building, or uniforms. Facial photos of actual team members can also be incorporated into the program allowing personnel in the simulation to actually recognize their team members apart from stock computer generated “tactical officers.” An added benefit of the simulation is the low cost of entry: currently around $10.00 USD per computer. CSI Mapping SpheroCam HDR / scene|works
Why it’s a big deal: Takes a high-definition, 360-degree picture of a crime scene. Application: Complete visual crime scene documentation. Less than 10 years ago, crime scene photographers had to be judicious when taking pictures. Film, processing and enlargements were expensive, and more photographs meant more time and money. Digital photography changed all that. With the advent and adoption of digital cameras the number of pictures taken on crime scene skyrocketed. With digital photography, everything could be documented for a fraction of the cost of film.
But the next generation of digital photography has arrived, and instead of taking hundreds of digital images or hours of digital video to capture a scene, it can now be done with one single image. With the SpheroCam HDR by CSI Mapping, photographers need to take only one picture—but what a picture it is. Taken with a tripod-mounted high-definition camera, the image is a complete 360°x180° image of an entire room. And because the 50+ megapixel image is taken with 26 f-stops simultaneously, everything in the image is in complete focus and capable of being examined in great detail.
Complete scans take only a couple of minutes and will be especially valuable to fragile and degrading crime scenes outdoors and in poor weather conditions. Developed in Germany and released in the United States in June of 2007, the SpheroCam HDR is a part of an integral crime scene system that allows for mapping, measurements and advanced reporting. DataSecurities Bioflexx Personal Security Device
Why it’s a big deal: Fingerprint-protected USB drive. Applications: Biometric-secured law enforcement data. USB drives are common place in most U.S. law enforcement agencies. Officers use them to carry reports and presentations and other sensitive data, and only a few of the devices contain any level of security. Most commercial USB drives allow plug-and-play ease of use, which is a great tool unless the wrong person gets a hold of the drive and access the data.
DataSecurities provides a host of security devices for securing data, laptops and other computer systems; key to these features is the Bioflexx USB drive, a standard USB portable drive equipped with a fingerprint scanner. The fingerprint scanner allows the user to quickly swipe his print across a small detector, which then compares that image against the original user’s scan. If the scan is a match, the user is allowed access to the contents of the drive. If no match is found, the drive contents remain locked. The Bioflexx USB drive is encased in titanium and features a retractable USB port and is available in storage unit of up to 8GB. Imageware Systems Inc. Law Enforcement Facial Recognition
Why it’s a big deal: Biometric tool used to identify people from their picture. Application: Detention population control, identifying wanted persons in a crowd. IWS™ Law Enforcement Facial Recognition allows personnel to conduct searches using photographs against existing database like they would currently do with fingerprints. Photos can be scanned or imported into the system.
The system works with several distinct facial characteristics as search variables such as distance between the eyes. A person might be able to change his appearance, but he is unlikely to change the distance between his eyeballs. The system can be a standalone program or integrated with other IWS solutions. Immersive Media Corporation Dodeca 2360 Telemmersion Camera
Why it’s a big deal: 11 video cameras stitched together providing an unparalleled level of situational awareness. Application: Creates a spherical video in any situation where a video camera could be used. Users can view the video from any direction, up or down. Video has long been the friend of public safety. From dash-mounted cruiser cameras, to surveillance cameras in gas stations, to intel video gather before a raid, the video has earned a place of respect and necessity in law enforcement investigations and operations alike.
The Dodeca® 2360 Telemmersion camera makes all the videos you have ever seen (even large screen IMAX® films) look like a badly shot silent movie. Immersive Media Corporation Dodeca 2360 Telemmersion camera is composed of 11 video cameras and four omni-directional microphones that allow an operator to record a fully immersive video at from 11 different angles. Seamlessly stitched together using the accompanying software, the composite video allows a viewer to view the video from any angle in real time. The ability to turn around, zoom in, look up or down, even watch behind the camera is very compelling; it truly makes video shot with a single lens look antiquated. The camera is ideal for creating archival videos of schools, courtrooms and other public places for potential future emergency response and deployments. With the ability to simultaneously record GPS data, the camera can also be integrated with ArcGIS® to provide detailed navigational and mapping solution.INEX /ZAMIR LY300
Why it’s a big deal: Handheld automated license plate recognition (ALPR). Application: detecting stolen cars and plates and driver information. Manually typing in license plate numbers takes a long time, and calling in plate numbers for someone else to check takes even longer. Automated license plate recognition systems, which use infrared and visible light to capture license plates, then use optical character recognition (OCR) software to “read” the plate numbers and then compare those numbers against a database of wanted or stolen tag numbers are being developed in a variety of flavors. Many ALPR systems are fixed for use in border applications or in parking lots; other ALPR systems are mobile and hard mounted on patrol vehicles. INEX/ZAMIR’s newest line of ALPR systems LY100, 200 and 300 series are different in that they are handheld and can be easily moved from vehicle to vehicle as operational needs change. The systems could be deployed in a parking lot during the day and used in special ops at night. The LY300 offers the ability to capture plates at more than 100 miles an hour (60 images a second) at distances of up to 50 feet; process the plate number; and compare it against a database in less than a second. Kwikpoint / Gaia Communications Visual Language Translator
Why it’s a big deal: Allows personnel to communicate without verbal language. Application: Specific guides for traffic stops, domestic violence, assault and rape. Linguists state that fewer than 500 common words are needed to communicate effectively between two languages. But communicating without any words is next to impossible, unless you are equipped with the latest low-tech language users guides from Kwikpoint.
While other companies are working to create high-tech pocket computer-based solutions to language translation, Kwikpoint has created a series of graphic situational based guides composed of universal pictures and symbols. Similar to the men and women icons on bathrooms in most of the developed world, each guide is focused on specific situations. The Law Enforcement Visual Translator includes images that would greatly facilitate cross cultural and multi-lingual communications in a traffic stop, an accident scene, or an assault.
The pictures allow a witness or victim to point to what he saw and provide details, which would otherwise be difficult to obtain. “The man who assaulted me had a tattoo of an eagle on his left hand,” for example. Images of country flags are also present to quickly gather country of origin information to facilitate additional translations devices. The Law Enforcement Visual Translator is printed in full color, folds into a 4”x 6” pamphlet, and expands roughly into an 11”x19” sheet. The document is fully laminated and waterproof. Knowledge Computing Corp. COPLINK
Why it’s a big deal: Analytic software that reveals leads and patterns from multiple databases. Application: Personnel can access unrelated databases to immediately develop cases leads. Law enforcement personnel rarely get excited about analytic software. The mere mention of the words “analytic software” usually get most officers running for cover. But COPLINK® is different. It is allows agencies to view pertinent data and leads from potentially thousands of databases—graphically.
Every day police reports and other databases grow with data. Multiple witnesses to crimes leave their traces in reports and interview statements. Thousands of calls for service are made, stored and recorded. But accessing this data in a logical method is next to impossible. COPLINK by Knowledge Computing allows complicated searches of seemingly unrelated database to be completed in seconds, often returning surprisingly accurate investigation leads and previously unknown connections.
For example: If a robbery has been committed and general suspect descriptions are searched within COPLINK, a list of potential suspects are generated who match characteristics such as physical appearance and general location. This data is then returned to the user as a graphic association chart through COPLINK Visualizer or overlaid on a GIS map when used in conjunction with COPLINK Incident Analyzer.
The backend architecture and analytics of this robust software are likely beyond the grasp of most people. But the generation of a list of suspects who match a physical description, crime characteristics and location from a search of 1 million records in dozens of databases in a matter of seconds is within every investigator’s desire. COPLINK is currently integrated in several states and federal applications.