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Meet Futurecop, the VR policeman of tomorrow

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The policeman of tomorrow will probably not look like Robocop, but will share many of his abilities, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Aside from a history of infamous prisoners – Charles 1 and the Kray twins, for example – the Isle of Wight in the English Channel may not come to mind as a microcosm of the world of crime. Yet, its 140 000 inhabitants have provided the world with a fascinating insight into the future of policing.

Back in 2013, the Hampshire Constabulary, which polices the island, issued its officers with body-worn video (BWV) cameras. The University of Portsmouth was commissioned to study the consequences, and the startling results were released last year: only 1 out of 11 cases had led to arrests the year before the introduction of BWV; in the following year, 7 out of 10 camera footage cases led to arrests.

Arthur Goldstuck gets a virtual reality tour of the Command Centre of the future

Arthur Goldstuck gets a virtual reality tour of the Command Centre
of the future

It’s not only about nailing the perps: it also changes behaviour towards the police. Cases of violent threats to officers dropped by 44 per cent the year they were fitted with the gadgets.

These findings have added to the momentum for bringing BWV, car dash-cams, video analytics and similar tools into the heart of crime-fighting.

Now, it’s all about to be taken a few steps further into the future.

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At last week’s Critical Communications World conference in Amsterdam, Motorola Solutions unveiled its vision of the high-tech policeman of the next decade. And at the core of this vision is not hardware or software, but the sipple concept of “real-time”.

“Real time will have a massive impact on critical communications,” says Eduardo Conrado, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at Motorola Solutions. “Our philosophy is to design for high-velocity
human impact, moments when there isn’t time to process a lot of information: moments of terror.”

Which brings us to the connected officer of 2025.

“The future is more about distributed capability, where the radio and smartphone don’t look like a radio or smartphone anymore, they are distributed across the body. It has the same functionality; it just doesn’t look like it.

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“In the next five years, we see the radio evolving into a collaborative device, with a personal area network – the radio, smartphone, smartwatch, and other devices all connected. Integrated power management becomes important, so you need wireless charging both in the office and in the vehicle.”

The following five years will see an even more dramatic shift, as Futurecop comes to resemble Robocop, while remaining completely human. The police car will become far more than just transport.

“As cars become smarter and dashboard displays larger, software and applications will be integrated into the vehicle, and the car becomes an extension of the officer. During a foot-chase, the officer is augmented by an airborne drone. The drone also becomes an extension of the command centre, not only capturing video from the air, but also running real-time analytics.

The policeman of tomorrow, equipped with smartglasses. PIC: Arthur Goldstuck

The policeman of tomorrow, equipped with smartglasses. PIC: Arthur Goldstuck

“If the officer pulls out a weapon, contextual information like accelerating heart rate and movement alerts the command centre to an emergency, and automatically alerts other units. The artificial intelligence built into the system immediately starts overlaying mapping information and starts routing vehicles to interception points.”

Finally, the history of what the officer saw and experienced is automatically shared with the team, and “paperwork” starts being generated automatically from the digitally recorded history. In 2016, this remains one of the biggest drains on police productivity. In 2026, it could happen seamlessly.

And finally, there is virtual reality.

“People say VR takes you away from the real world and takes you somewhere else,” says LanTing Garra, Innovation Design Director at Motorola Solutions. “But that’s exactly what we want to do with the command centre.

“Today it’s all about getting information from the field. That means the person in the command centre is trying to visualise the entire scene through verbal communications, and check in with the officer every two minutes. What if we can reduce all that communications, let the officers on the frontline focus on what they’re doing, but also bring the command centre into the scene?”

The idea is that the officer would be wearing smartglasses, while support staff in the command centre wear VR goggles that allow them to view the scene from the officer’s point of view as well as through 360 degree cameras mounted on cars and aerial cameras carried by drones.

New technology from a company called Eyefluence, in which Motorola Solutions’ venture capital arm invested last year, allows the command centre to navigate the virtual scene through eye tracking and interaction.

“The benefits are both simplified communication and incident immersion,” says Garra. “The incident commander can be on the scene with the location flexibility of a virtual presence, and shared situational awareness.”

The most remarkable aspect of this vision is that the technology already exists. The virtual command centre was demonstrated at Critical Communications World – and drew the crowds one usually sees at the unveiling of exciting new consumer technologies.

But going by the impact of the ancestors of this technology on the Isle of Wight, Futurecop could become as much a feature of our environment as the rest of the gadgets we take for granted today.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Now download a bank account

Absa has introduced an end-to-end account opening for new customers, through the Absa Banking App, which can be downloaded from the Android and Apple app stores. This follows the launch of the world first ChatBanking on WhatsApp service.

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This “download your account” feature enables new customers to Absa, to open a Cheque account, order their card and start transacting on the Absa Banking App, all within minutes, from anywhere and at any time, by downloading it from the App stores.

“Overall, this new capability is not only expected to enhance the customer’s digital experience, but we expect to leverage this in our branches, bringing digital experiences to the branch environment and making it easier for our customers to join and bank with us regardless of where they may be,” says Aupa Monyatsi, Managing Executive for Virtual Channels at Absa Retail & Business Banking.

“With this innovation comes the need to ensure that the security of our customers is at the heart of our digital experience, this is why the digital onboarding experience for this feature includes a high-quality facial matching check with the Department of Home Affairs to verify the customer’s identity, ensuring that we have the most up to date information of our clients. Security is supremely important for us.”

The new version of the Absa Banking App is now available in the Apple and Android App stores, and anyone with a South African ID can become an Absa customer, by following these simple steps:

  1. Download the Absa App
  2. Choose the account you would like to open
  3. Tell us who you are
  4. To keep you safe, we will verify your cell phone number
  5. Take a selfie, and we will do facial matching with the Department of Home Affairs to confirm you are who you say you are
  6. Tell us where you live
  7. Let us know what you do for a living and your income
  8. Click Apply.

 

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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