According to a global study from Motorola Solutions, conducted by Goldsmiths, University of London, the pandemic has redefined public expectations for what it means to be safe, and it has accelerated the acceptance and adoption of public safety technology.
Based on the voices of 12,000 citizens and 50 public safety agencies, commercial organizations and experts across 10 worldwide markets, including the United States, the 2021 Consensus for Change report reveals how the global pandemic has sparked a new safety movement.
“Technology has kept us connected, entertained and productive throughout the pandemic,” said Mahesh Saptharishi, Motorola Solutions senior vice president and chief technology officer. “We have also observed the important way it has supported our public safety agencies and commercial industries in delivering their services while keeping us safe.”
Both citizens and public safety leaders are more ready than ever to embrace technology for public safety. An overwhelming 88% of the citizens surveyed said they want to see public safety transformed through the use of advanced technology like video cameras, analytics, cloud-based software and more.
The research identifies three major trends that demonstrate an inflection point in how citizens and organizations are thinking about technology and safety:
1. THE PANDEMIC REDEFINED EXPECTATIONS FOR SAFETY
The global pandemic changed the way citizens think and feel about safety and their expectations for those who provide it. In fact, 68% of those surveyed said the pandemic increased the need for safety technologies, while 71% said advanced technologies were needed to address challenges of the modern world.
In this way, the pandemic created an environment in which agencies are able to demonstrate the potential of advanced technologies to an open and engaged public.
2. THE PANDEMIC ACCELERATED TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION
Many public safety agencies were modernizing their operations through digital technologies well before COVID-19, with benefits including increased safety and efficiency, better data security and more flexible and integrated systems.
However, researchers found that the ways in which agencies are using cloud-based technology, artificial intelligence, video cameras and critical communications solutions are evolving in response to the pandemic. Further, researchers found that public safety agencies are deploying these technologies at far greater speed to counter new risks.
The pandemic also sparked high-velocity innovation, while reconfirming the need for reliable and resilient mission-critical communications. Summarized findings from the report include:
- Broader adoption of cloud technology: The cloud is helping agencies boost their responsiveness and flexibility, as well as supporting decentralized and remote operations. Many have discovered that cloud-based public safety technology, like CommandCentral from Motorola Solutions, can provide more than computing and storage power – it also includes access to networking, databases and sophisticated analytics. Software-based cloud technology has the advantage of being more economical and is easier to keep up to date than on-premise solutions.
- Increased use of video security solutions: Around the world, video security and analytics technologies are being used to identify and address safety risks, increase operational efficiency and reduce the burden on investigators through the application of AI. For example, investigators no longer need to sift through hours of video footage to look for critical incidents or clues. Instead, AI is being used to quickly identify people and objects of interest within large volumes of video content, presenting a filtered set of results for verification by a human. Additionally, police agencies are deploying body-worn video technology to increase transparency, and vehicle license plate analysis has become a critical tool for investigations.
- Greater need for interoperability and data sharing: One common challenge for public safety agencies is a lack of interoperable technology that allows them to communicate with other agencies. Another is disparate and incompatible systems within organizations that don’t communicate with each other. Agencies want more interoperable solutions and greater integration across their technology systems to streamline their workflows and data, increase situational awareness as emergencies unfold and deliver better safety outcomes overall. For example, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department in California benefited from its sizable and interoperable radio network as the health crisis unfolded and agencies across the county were able to stay informed and efficiently collaborate on emergency response.
- Continued need for resilient communications: Emergency services continue to depend on mission-critical voice communications and hardened land mobile radio infrastructure for resilience and reliability. These communication systems are evolving through integration with other technologies, including mobile broadband. For example, the Boston Police Department extended the reach of its land mobile radio system within 72 hours of the first COVID-19 lockdown by integrating broadband push-to-talk services. This enabled secure voice and data communication for its distributed and remote workforce by connecting radio users on the frontline with employees using smartphones and other devices within their homes.
3. TECHNOLOGY MUST BE INCLUSIVE, FAIR AND UNDERSTOOD
This research reveals that while citizens want authorities to use modern technology to support public safety, they expect it to be incorporated in ways that are transparent, fair and inclusive. The benefits of using these technologies must be easily understood by citizens to build trust, transparency and accountability with the community.
“Transparency is key in public messaging, as is making sure all our community partners have had an opportunity to understand the proposed path forward before the technological solution is purchased and implemented,” said Gary Bell, director of emergency preparedness for Waukesha County, Wisconsin.
Agencies also must ensure they have sufficient protections in place for data security and provide employees with training on the appropriate use of new technologies. For example, the Boston Police Department says a critical success factor in its broadband push-to-talk technology deployment was clear internal communication about how it would be used and its benefits. The department works to provide training and communicate policies before deploying new technology, so its workforce forms a complete understanding of how the tools can be used to their full potential.
The research also highlights some degree of public concern over the use of rapidly evolving technologies, such as AI. More public education is needed to explain the benefits of this type of technology and how, when used responsibly, it can have profound and positive impacts on the safety of a community.
Experts, such as Saptharishi, have said AI should never replace the role of people in critical industries such as public safety.
“One of the most powerful uses of AI technology is to support and enhance human decision-making by eliminating some of the manual and repetitive tasks that we simply don’t have the time or attention span to complete,” Saptharishi said. “For example, AI could quickly sift through many hours of video footage to find a potential criminal suspect, the results of which can be verified by a human who can decide what to do next.”
The gap between safety objectives and technology is closing to help public safety organizations increase engagement and trust, accelerate innovation and develop better solutions for the future. How will your agency invest in these technologies?