6 Ways Public Entities Use Smart Tech for Public Safety
From smart street lights to predictive policing, smart technologies promise public entities the possibility of improved public safety in a variety of applications. Many such smart technologies are enabled by internet of things (IoT) devices, which often act as the eyes and ears of such systems. The smart technologies being deployed to improve public safety also present public entities with new risks related to information security, law enforcement liability and bodily injury.
- Smart video and audio surveillance. While video surveillance has been around for decades, smart technology and new audio capabilities can make it more effective, actionable and connected to other municipal systems. Consider the way that blind spots in video networks, low-quality imagery, and slow data retrieval hampers authorities’ efforts to protect their citizens. With smart video and audio capabilities, improvements to public safety efforts may include detecting vehicle license tags. Special high-resolution cameras can even hone in on potential suspects as well.
- Smart street lighting systems. Street lighting is often the first smart technology that cities adopt for reduced energy consumption. Lights also can be networked and altered remotely to deter crime, detect gunfire and make public safety announcements over loudspeakers.
- Body-worn camera systems. Now capable of more than recording videos, some smart body-worn camera systems can include automated transcription, Wi-Fi connectivity and other solutions to help with storing and processing the large amount of video data.
- Biometric monitoring systems. Some biometric devices can identify people based on fingerprints, facial features, iris patterns, gaits, voice prints and human thermal signatures. Back-end systems compare these features to a database of known individuals for positive recognition.
- Predictive policing. Analyzing crime statistics, weather patterns and other geographic information can help law enforcement use resources more efficiently and improve public safety by identifying predictive hot spots, putting police in locations where crime patterns have been established. It also can help police arriving at crime scenes better prepared to address a potential scenario.
- Emergency and extreme weather response. Powerful software tools used to aggregate information on local conditions and resources can help emergency response teams from different jurisdictions coordinate during an emergency.
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While smart technologies can offer compelling advantages to law enforcement, including the potential for improved efficiency and effectiveness, public entities must also be prepared for these potential risks.
- Cyber risks. If sensitive data is not properly secured and the public entity or its citizens experience significant financial loss, business disruption or reputational damage as a result, the city may be susceptible to cyber claims.
- Law enforcement liability. Cities may find themselves liable for damage if the use of new smart technologies leads to a wrongful act committed while conducting law enforcement activities or operations.
- Bodily injury. If the hardware or software constituting new smart systems fails to function as intended and directly or indirectly leads to physical harm for one or more people, a public entity could be subject to a bodily injury lawsuit.
To manage these uncharted risks, public entities should consider revising their training programs, as well as their policies and procedures. They should also speak with their independent agent or broker about whether they have the right insurance coverage in place. Network and information security, law enforcement policies and procedures and organizational and community readiness are three areas worth special consideration for cities considering smart public safety technology.
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