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Times are getting tougher for criminals, thanks to technological advancements in public safety. Public spaces today are protected by high-tech surveillance systems, ranging from security cameras to gunshot detectors that form a digitized infrastructure that makes it easier to catch criminals. And now, recent advancements in data analytics may soon make it possible to deter crimes before they happen.
Today’s modern cities collect data to inform or alert public officials about a vast array of community events, including crimes, traffic gridlock, weather conditions, public transit statuses, and social media chatter. Just how much data are cities dealing with? In 2012 alone, an estimated 200 million security cameras around the world captured 1.6 trillion hours of video footage (PDF), a figure expected to double by 2020. Monitoring that volume of video would take hundreds of millions of humans working full time. For most public safety organizations, the surge of data is difficult to manage—human operators simply can’t keep up.
In order to act swiftly, officials need that data compiled and analyzed in real time. Storing the data complicates this challenge. For law enforcement, real-time response is sometimes slowed by the need to log into several different platforms that don’t share data. Since much of the most valuable video or sensor data is captured on privately owned systems, solving crimes often requires that they track down private businesses and individuals that may have captured valuable data for clues, which can significantly delay investigations. To accelerate this process, law enforcement agencies stand to benefit greatly from public-private partnerships that would enable them to more quickly access and understand data. After all, cities are comprised of not only people, but both public and private buildings, transit systems and vehicles.
Recognizing an opportunity to apply the cutting edge technology in its Social Innovation solution portfolio to this challenge, Hitachi is helping to pioneer public-private partnerships in cities around the world, furthering its commitment to building safer and smarter communities. Hitachi Visualization (video) offers hardware and software services that help unify legacy systems already in place.
Using inexpensive Hitachi gateways, a private security camera can feed its video over IP to a local law enforcement agency, which can access it as a live-stream or recorded video. Combined with public sources of information like maps, weather, or traffic data, this results in faster response times for citizens and private businesses in an emergency or criminal event. Darrin Lipscomb, Hitachi Data Systems’ CTO/Senior Director of Public Safety and Visualization, sums it up this way: “Breaking down public safety silos is a critical first step towards achieving true interoperability and improving overall situational awareness. Hitachi is making this much easier by leveraging the power and ubiquitous nature of crowd computing.”
Now, Hitachi Visualization Suite even has the potential to deter criminal events from happening in the first place. Its recently unveiled Predictive Crime Analytics (PCA) software offers law enforcement officials an analytics tool that can synthesize vast amounts of disparate data sources, including video, historical incidences of crime, traffic, weather, and unusual social media activity, among many other inputs. Using proprietary algorithms, PCA rapidly processes and analyzes data to reveal patterns that can provide insight into the likelihood of future crimes. The system helps officials to identify at-risk neighborhoods and time periods so they can adjust their resources accordingly, with the aim of being in the right place at the right time.
This proactive approach might be the key to achieving the ultimate goal of public safety officials everywhere: keeping communities safe as efficiently and intelligently as possible. By leveraging all of the data available to public and private entities, everyone in the community benefits: Law enforcement officers see increased efficiencies in resource allocation and response times, business owners benefit from increased protection of their property, and populations everywhere enjoy safer cities. Hitachi hopes that as its PCA software capabilities advance, cities will soon be able to prevent some crimes before they occur. That’s more bad news for would-be criminals, but a tremendously positive outlook for the rest of us.