08/27/2013

Tim DeesPolice Tech & Gear
with Tim Dees

The first police application for Google Glass?

Mutualink has announced software and a network for the new platform

Most of the geek world — the portion of it that wasn’t included in the beta test group — has been awaiting the consumer rollout of Google Glass. The public safety community ought to be just as eager to get their hands on Google Glass, as the technology could integrate information and street work to an unprecedented level.

The first head-worn computer that doesn’t make the wearer look as though they were assimilated by the Borg, Google Glass might be the vanguard of a new class of electronics, the way that the iPod was for digital music players. Most of the buzz has been about privacy, and the way these devices will be used by citizens in their everyday lives.

At APCO last week, Mutualink announced a Google Glass partnership, and the company might even have a public safety product available as soon as the computers become available. 

Fantastic Possibilities
Google Glass seems a natural fit for patrol officers, who can neither afford to tie up their hands with a keyboard nor take their eyes off what they’re doing to look at a computer display. A see-through, head-mounted display superimposes the display over the user’s natural field of vision, while input is via spoken word instructions through a microphone. 

The display can’t show as much text or detail as a standard computer, but it can display a few lines at a time, and voice commands or a gesture can scroll more information into view. 

Mutualink’s product will be one of the first to use 4G LTE high-bandwidth data over the FirstNet system. 

FirstNet promises a dedicated voice and data network — operated over the national cellular matrix — that is designed to improve public safety communications and interoperability. 

Using FirstNet will ensure that officers in neighboring and distant agencies can work as closely as if they were in the same department. They will be able to talk, text, and send data and graphics between devices as easily as they’re sent over today’s smartphones, but over a dedicated and secure network.

Like most smartphones, Google Glass can also capture images and video through a built-in camera, and can send that information to other users. With dedicated Google Glass applications like those promised from Mutualink, the possibilities are pretty fantastic.

An officer interviewing a suspected gang member could run the suspect’s image through a facial recognition database of known gangsters, or pull up a photo record of a tattoo to compare against one on the person in front of them. During a building search, officers can see their own location and those of everyone else involved in the effort on a stored floor plan of the structure. 

Privacy and Security
Security concerns are addressed through Mutualink’s “secure and sovereign-controlled multimedia interoperability platform,” which allows sharing of an agency’s data only after permission explicit for both the data and the sharing agency has been granted. Once that transaction is complete, there is a complete disconnection and no third party can gain access. 

The system also avoids a central data warehouse whose security, if breached, exposes the entire contents. 

A big issue with Google Glass — as with the body-worn cameras that officers are increasingly wearing — will be privacy. 

Citizens will have to weigh the benefits of having greater police accountability via increased documentation of officers’ activities against the potential hazards of having their own activities recorded. 

People who aren’t up to anything they shouldn’t be have no need for concern, but that argument seldom provides much comfort or satisfaction. 

About the author

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer, and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in Northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia, and Oregon.

He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.

Tim has written more than 300 articles for nearly every national law enforcement publication in the United States, and is the author of The Truth About Cops, published by Hyperink Press. In 2005, Tim became the first editor-in-chief for Officer.com, moving to the same position for LawOfficer.com at the beginning of 2008. He now writes on applications of technology in law enforcement from his home in SE Washington state.

Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama, and the Certified Protection Professional credential from ASIS International. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

Dees can be reached at tim.dees@policeone.com.

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