The Internet of Things (IoT) is starting to make waves in law enforcement. From connected guns that remember exactly when and how they were fired to wearable smart devices designed for police dogs, the IoT is becoming a go-to solution not only to improve law enforcement officers' capabilities, but also to increase accountability and public safety.
Here are some examples of IoT products and services that are just beginning to have an impact on law enforcement.
Smart firearms and accessories
Smart guns are one of the most well-known breakthroughs for law enforcement, especially in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Ferguson, Missouri, teenager Michael Brown in August.
A startup called Yardarm Technologies has attracted a lot of attention lately. Its smart gun concept is equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope, wireless GSM, and Bluetooth low energy to monitor and record data every time it is discharged.
The technology appeals both to officer safety and transparency when officers use their weapons. The sensor and location features keep track of the gun's position and exact timing when shots were fired, helping to remove some of the mystery when police use their weapons, and can also send automatic alerts notifying dispatchers and other officers exactly when and where to provide backup.
The data gathered is encrypted and sent to Yardarm's cloud before it is processed by the police departments' customized software, which departments can design for their own specific uses. Police departments in Santa Cruz, California, and Carrollton, Texas, have already begun testing the technology, and Yardarm plans to launch officially in early 2015.
Yardarm's system still remains controversial, as police who have used basically the same firearms for a century will be skeptical to rely on a new, relatively untested technology, especially for their most important piece of equipment. Yardarm's internet-connected gun also joins several other smart gun breakthroughs, such as guns equipped with biometric fingerprint sensors on their triggers or RFID chips paired with smart bracelets to ensure the gun can only be fired by the officer to whom it was assigned.
All of these technologies carry the potential to transform the most dangerous and controversial aspect of law enforcement, and even though they all face resistance, they're sure to have some kind of impact eventually.
Real-time gunshot monitoring
A system called ShotSpotter recognizes when gun shots are fired in public and helps police identify where the gun that fired them might be located.
Developed by a company called SST, the system relies on connected microphones installed throughout a city, town, or college campus. The microphones can cover up to 10 square miles, and are designed to measure the range of "sounds which are explosive in nature," according to the company website. The microphones send the data recorded when they hear a gunshot to a police departments' computer, which measures the time it took for the sound to reach the microphone to estimate the location of the gun.
Although ShotSpotter is currently limited to identifying outdoor gunfire, the company is currently developing technology to recognize the muffled sound of a gun discharged inside a home or building, according to a CNET report.
For police, this technology means dispatchers won't be limited only to reports of shootings from witnesses which may be inaccurate or might not come at all and could help officers pin down the location of an active shooter more quickly. The technology has the potential to spur long-term change, mapping areas where gunfire is common.
The technology has already been deployed in several major cities, including Oakland, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and South Bend, Indiana. Oakland mayor Jean Quan said in April that the city had seen the largest drop in homicides among all major cities in the U.S. in 2013, due in part to the city's ShotSpotter deployment.
Next section: Wearables: Not just for officers