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November 27, 2012
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John Rivera Technology Helpdesk
with John Rivera

Are wearable computers the 'Nextep' in police technology?

Many of my articles have focused on how technology has changed — for the better! — the way police work is conducted.

I have also occasionally mentioned how too much dependence on technology can hamper good police work.

For this article, I would like to attempt to predict the future.

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Today and Tomorrow
I can say with certainty that all police agencies in the United States use a computer to dispatch calls, generate incident reports, take inventory and complete many other daily functions.

My typical work day begins with me turning on my MCT/MDT and opening a total of four separate programs so I can access the information I need on any given moment. For example, if I take a statement from a citizen via telephone in my car, I will type the statement as it is told to me on an MS Word document on my MCT/MDT and then transfer the narrative to our Record Management System (RMS).

I have found this to help me be more accurate on my initial report and it saves time.

So, let’s look ahead a few years and imagine arriving at scene to get a statement from a victim, witness, or even the offender but instead of writing the statement in a notebook you begin to type the statement on a Word-type program on a computer.

You might ask, “Why would an officer carry a bulky MCT anywhere?”

Well, the answer is coming in the near future. 

Taking the Nextep
I recently stumbled upon a computer concept — still being developed — that stopped me in my tracks. A computer you can actually wear on your wrist.

Sony is developing a computer — the Nextep — that is worn as a wristband.

When the person wants to use the Nextep, they remove it from their wrist and unroll it flat against a surface. The virtual keyboard; which is much like any smartphone or tablet computer keyboard to type, lights up (LED lights) and the flexible monitor/screen activates.

The monitor is powered by an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED), which acts much like the screen on a smartphone or tablet computer. It is brighter than LED, saves on power, and allows it to last longer between power charges.  The monitor/screen even has an embedded projector to view images on a separate surface. The programs or applications are then executed via the touch screen so there is no external mouse.

You may be saying to yourself that this sounds like true science fiction but it will be a reality by 2020 or maybe even sooner.

I know that by the time the Nextep is released, many of you will be enjoying fishing in Baja or traveling the world by then but you may enjoy this portability as a private citizen.

Technology is ever-fluid and always seems to be moving forward. It is my belief the Sony Nextep could and very well should be used as a law enforcement tool. The possibilities for this particular computer are endless.

For example, an officer could leave the vehicle and link the Nextep computer to their vehicle MCT, constantly receiving updated information without using the radio and possibly giving out their location to a suspect.

I’m sure there will be skeptics among you regarding the Nextep in police work but those same skeptics may still have issues with the VCR still blinking 12:00. Think about what computing activities we enjoy and depend on in our private life, such as the DVR, streaming movies on a smartphone or the totally portable tablet PC.

Now pair what we have today with the Sony Nextep.

Just imagine what early law enforcement officers would have said about the current technology we use in our patrol cars; the very technology we depend on to perform our work today, providing us the ability to get instant information on a person/suspect, vehicle or even a crime in progress.

Technology even provides current officers in many agencies including mine the ability to have a traffic infraction completed and issued within 10 minutes of stopping a vehicle by scanning a driver’s license and vehicle registration, then printing the ticket from your vehicle-mounted printer.

This technology can be considered a time-saving tool and enhances officer’s safety by limiting the officer’s exposure to other vehicle traffic.

The Sony Nextep is just that — a “next step” forward. I hope I’m around to be able to see and possibly use it during my day to day activities.

Stay safe. 

About the author

John Rivera is a Patrol Officer with the Bremerton Police Department. John’s career BPD started as a Volunteer Reserve Officer and while he volunteered his time as a reserve officer he work as Police Officer at Naval Base Kitsap. He was hired full time in 2006 and attended the Washington State Police Academy. While at the academy, John was selected as the class “Techy” to help with the technologically deficient class instructors. Before John’s law enforcement career, he gained his computer experience through earning a degree in Computer Programming and then working in the computer industry as a Network Administrator and Systems Engineer for several companies.

Contact John Rivera

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