How technology can be applied to combat crime
How every citizen should be part of the solution
SURVEYS have time and again shown that crime tops all other issues as a top-of-mind concern for most Malaysians. It is a bigger concern than the cost of living, corruption, and perhaps even the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
A lot has been done in recent times to address this concern, but in the eyes of the public, it is still not good enough.
Available research on criminology indicates that people’s perceptions are often driven by what they hear and feel happen to the people around them, hence overlooking whether they personally have experienced crime (that is, have been victim to a criminal activity).
To quote from one such research, “… there may be little correlation between fear of and concern about crime. Public concern about crime may be driven more by community representations of it than by actual or anticipated personal experience.”
Malaysia is no different. A closer look at concerns about crime interestingly reveals that crimes that are classified as petty, such as snatching and house-breaking, are the biggest concerns, and are further magnified in their perceived impact through public perception that these crimes are endemic.
Many police forces around the world are increasingly working to minimise the impact of petty crime and the associated perception of lawlessness, through what is widely referred to as the ‘broken windows theory.’
The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes, such as snatching (or snatch theft, as it is more commonly known as in Malaysia), minor burglaries, vandalism, toll-jumping and the like, helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening.
Inspired by this line of research and thinking, my colleagues and I met one Friday afternoon to discuss how emerging technologies can help us to address and minimise instances of crime in Malaysia.
We brainstormed on how we could drive some new innovative approaches, leveraging on technology, to build creative solutions to fighting crime.
At the outset we picked five of the top technologies that we think can play an important role in addressing this issue. They include:
Predictive analytics: Providing the ability to analyse large tracts of data, and find patterns that can help predict potential crime before they occur.
XaaS (Everything as a Service): Providing the ability to engage a large section of the population in the capture of crime-related information and to provide individuals/ public safety officials with processed information on demand.
Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications: Providing the ability to capture alerts and events directly from machines (such as video cameras, cars, security systems, mobile phones and the like).
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): Providing the ability to respond swiftly and in a cost effective manner to threats and imminent acts of crime.
Sensor fusion: Providing the ability to intelligently capture events that pre-empt the occurrence of a crime (such as smart cameras, motion detection and the like).
Making every citizen part of the solution is absolutely vital if we are to combat the perception of fear. It is also critical to give the each individual the ability to participate in his/ her own protection.
We propose the development of a cloud platform. We call this the ‘Public Safety Cloud.’ This cloud platform would allow anyone in the country to connect to it with a wide variety of tools or applications.
With the support of millions of Malaysians, this cloud can help address the address the big concern about crime that impacts them today.
What can be connected to the Public Safety Cloud?
Video Cameras: You can buy any video camera, put it outside your home or in your neighbourhood, and connect it to the cloud.
Kill switch on every smartphone: Smartphones tend to be one of the most valuable items at risk of theft in bag snatching incidents. The use of this kill switch software renders the smartphone of no value to the new user. This has played an important role in reducing smartphone theft in the United States. The Malaysian Government can take a proactive role in embedding this app into all smartphones sold in the country.
Emergency mobile app/ Internet portal: An application that could trigger an emergency response could be developed and embedded into every smartphone in the country in partnership with mobile service providers. This app could be a source of two-way interaction with users. Users can report any incidents, share valuable information and even have access to a panic button in the case of emergencies. The 999 emergency response service can be integrated into this system.
Vehicles: Vehicles connected via an M2M network can be integrated into the service. The same set of safety features as with the mobile phone kill app can be integrated into this platform. Additional equipment can be very easily installed at minimal cost into every vehicle which prefers to have this service.
The devices that can be connected to this cloud platform could be limitless. Anything that is of a security concern can be connected to the cloud. You can put a camera in a school bus, into your neighbourhood, or any other location.
The cloud platform will be integrated with predictive analytics and big data solutions, Google Street Views, UAVs, and existing public safety emergency response systems.
Benefits of connecting to this public cloud
In return for connecting to the cloud, each user will be able to get:
Emergency response assistance should any breach of security occur;
Disabling of equipment/ vehicle to minimise damage in case of theft; and
Alerts based on predictive data if they are at a high risk of a security event.
The effective use of big data will help develop very meaningful insights into the issues and help solve some of these challenges:
Ability to isolate crimes/ types of crimes with location and people;
Start predicting where crime and incidents are likely to happen; and
Building applications/ visualisation tools on top of Google maps or Google Street View will help develop real-time colour-coded views of threat levels in various neighbourhoods.
Who pays for this?
This has to be a public-private partnership project. The Government can fund the initial cloud deployment. Every user who wishes to connect one of their cameras, devices or assets to the cloud would pay a small monthly fee for the assurance of this enhanced level of security.
Given the scale of this initiative, public tenders could be invited for companies who could drive this initiative at very minimal costs to the consumer.
We are entering an era where the information about people, their consumption and movement patterns are of incredible value to marketers. We may find companies willing to fund the entire effort with no cost to the consumer. Local communities may also opt in to pay or subsidise for these services in high-risk zones.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of owning a cloud system is the fact that it is scalable – new services and solutions can be added at relative ease at a low cost.
As the cloud ecosystem matures, new technologies like 5G (Fifth Generation) mobile connectivity, software-designed networking (SDN), and advances in supercomputing mean that the potential for such services will increase exponentially.
Looking towards the future, we believe that the following solutions will also be viable options to expand the role of a public security cloud in Malaysia:
Areal Unmanned Drones: Hobbyist drones have seen a recent surge in commercial use and are now available for as low as RM1,000 (US$273). Connecting these drones to a public cloud for security purposes combined with video cameras and sensors could significantly and cost-effectively increase the presence of security services in high-risk areas.
Biometrics: Sensors which detect biometric features such as fingerprints and retinas are becoming mainstream in consumer devices such as smartphones. Having biometric data in a public security cloud could enable fast and secure access to buildings and vehicles across the country and would be easily customised.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): The capabilities of AI technology are also expanding significantly. The market is approaching a phase where ‘virtual call centres’ are becoming a reality in that someone will be able to call a police hotline and would not need to speak to a real person, or even give extended information due to context-aware computing. This would significantly improve police response rate times.
Facial recognition: Companies like Facebook are now able to identify a person using a picture with a 95% degree of accuracy. Going forward, this technology, if used in the cloud and combined with existing public security infrastructure, will be able to identify potential criminals and alert authorities before any potential crimes take place.
Another equally exciting aspect of such a cloud is that, if successful, it can be expanded into other sectors in Malaysia.
From giving real-time information on the growing conditions in a palm plantation in Sarawak to easing traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur, cloud infrastructure combined with emerging technologies can help Malaysia realise efficiencies as it looks towards its 2020 vision.
Manoj Menon is senior partner and Asia Pacific managing director at Frost & Sullivan. Contributing to this article were Karthik Rajan, vice president of public sector & government; Marc Einstein, Japan head of ICT Research; and Ravi Miglani, senior director of Customer Research, Frost & Sullivan.
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