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3 surveillance tools American cops aren't using, but should be

These solutions could completely change law enforcement operations, tactics and investigations


While at the 2016 International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, I met with Adam Thomas of the Defence and Security Organisation of London. Thomas told me that he knew of me and wanted me to see some of the various products from their organization. Had I known what the Defence and Security Organisation meant by "knew of me," I would have been unnerved at our introduction. These products are for spying and surveillance. Law enforcement officers need to take a really good look at this stuff to become informed and educated about the capabilities of these technologies.

The best way to describe the Defence and Security Organisation is that they strategize a collection of critical products for the purpose of security and protection. Their strategic products include cybersecurity, border, aviation, physical and asymmetrical warfare security solutions.

1. SATaRE Rapier

The SPO-NX is a passive millimeter wave technology device designed to locate potential weapons on a person concealed under their clothing. (QinetiQ Image)
The SPO-NX is a passive millimeter wave technology device designed to locate potential weapons on a person concealed under their clothing. (QinetiQ Image)

First, I reviewed a device called the SATaRE Rapier, a tiny, two-way transmitter/receiver tracking system. This is probably one of the most unique types of tracking devices in the world.  The Rapier gives location, speed, direction, temperature and other reporting information to the listener. It can transmit through concrete. It is small enough to be hidden almost anywhere.

The user monitoring the Rapier can view a web portal based "track" that is superimposed over any type of map to give the user a satellite, hybrid or road image with a refresh rate that can be adjusted.

Steve Morris, of SATaRE, had one in his pocket and demonstrated that the user could monitor where he was and activate the device for two-way communication. What that means is that the user can activate the device and "talk" to the person they are tracking. The device he had "planted" on himself had a refresh rate of one minute. That is, using various positioning systems like GPS, GLONASS or 3G, the user can follow the track person in real time. This system was capable of a lot more than I am able to report here.

If that wasn't enough, this system sniffed out Bluetooth and Wi-Fi so it can constantly transmit information to the tracker at the lowest power.

After I finished talking to Morris, I stopped for a moment to thoroughly check my pockets.

2. SPO-NX by QinetiQ

Next up was the SPO-NX, a device that looks a lot like a portable stage light used in theatrical productions. It is easily portable and looks pretty innocuous when deployed in public.

The SPO-NX is a passive millimeter wave technology device designed to locate potential weapons on a person concealed under their clothing. This also means that its use is not really detectable. It is completely safe to the general public.

The SPO-NX is a tool that can be deployed as a layer of protection for crowds entering an airport or similar venues. It is completely portable and can run off batteries, if necessary.

When I looked at the product, the demonstrators directed the device at various people walking by. The device was designed to point out anomalies, which tell the user the level of probability that what they are seeing might possibly be a weapon. It was easy to read and someone like me could have this device up and running in less than five minutes.

I was standing next to Thomas at the time when someone suggested trying the device on me. They started swinging the SPO-NX in my direction. I quickly sidestepped the offer.

3. SeeQuestor

The SeeQuestor is an integrated hardware and software video analysis system. When I saw this demonstration, I was completely floored.

“When it comes to video analysis,”Fariba Hozhabrafkan, Vice President of SeeQuestor Business Development, told me, “…[many ]spend one hour of analysis for every hour of video.” SeeQuestor can create an analysis that ingests any video format from almost any import source. It can produce a complete post-event analysis that maintains the chain of evidence. The original input is never altered or destroyed.

Hozhabrafkan showed me a post-event analysis that started with a confrontation at the turnstiles in a mass transit system. The SeeQuestor system can filter motion detection, facial identification and other types of physical identification. For example, a user analyzing a particular scene can ask, "show me all of the motion in this area of the scene only.” This particular task was done in front of me and the confrontation at the turnstiles rendered several other “people associations" from the original scene. From the input of several other cameras, a suspect or witness was identified that wasn't in the original incident.

Hozhabrafkan told me that an agency user can take inputs from dozens of cameras over 14 months of video and have a complete evidentiary analysis in about four days. This type of tool could completely change the way some investigations are done.

The quest for radically faster video intelligence isn't just for investigations. It is critical for national security.

Although I have a background in several different areas that required security clearance while I was active, the stuff that I got to see from Defence and Security Organisation of London was definitely eye-opening. I'm glad that the good guys use them.

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