Pandemic fuels need for greater use of technology in public safety

The Covid-19 pandemic has made the public more open to the use of advanced technologies by the emergency services.

Sep 28, 2021
By Paul Jacques

A new report, published today (September 28), found that the majority of people wanted to see technology such as data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) used to increase public safety.

The global study, by Motorola Solutions and a research team at Goldsmiths, University of London, found that an overwhelming 95 per cent of UK citizens want to see public safety transformed through the use of advanced technology.

More than three-quarters of people in the UK (76 per cent) say the emergency services should be able to use advanced technologies to predict risk, while 72 per cent believe technologies such as video cameras, data analytics, cybersecurity and the cloud are needed to address challenges of the modern world.

The Consensus for Change report said the global pandemic had “changed the way people think and feel about safety”.

It said the “extraordinary conditions of the global health crisis” have made two things very clear — safety is now seen as a collective responsibility across public safety agencies, industry and society, and that technology can play a far greater role in keeping people safe.

For example, with almost 37,000 assaults on police officers in England and Wales (including British Transport) in the year ending March 2021, and assaults on public safety officials consistently increasing in recent years, public safety officials turned to new technology such as body-worn cameras and continued innovation to keep the public and the front line safe.

Dr Chris Brauer of Goldsmiths, University of London, who conducted the research, said: “Citizens all over the world are coming to terms with what it means to live with Covid-19 and how it impacts their safety.

“Our shared experience of the pandemic has made us realise that technology can play a far greater role in keeping us safe and has increased our understanding of why public safety and enterprise organisations need it to respond to new threats.”

Further findings from the UK show that 65 per cent believe the emergency services have greater impact with advanced technologies while 69 per cent think the pandemic has increased the communication needs of public safety agencies, with safety policies that were in place before the pandemic no longer adequate to meet new levels of risk.

However, the report also reinforced the need for transparency and trust to increase public support for technology deployments.

It also identified that more public engagement was needed to increase understanding of emerging technologies, such as AI.

In the UK, 78 per cent of people say they are willing to trust organisations that hold information about them so long as it used appropriately, with 81 per cent saying that the privacy of their data was important to them.

“As technology continues to quickly evolve, it is critical for organisations to ensure that their advancements are built, and understood, to be human-centric,” said Mahesh Saptharishi, senior vice-president and chief technology officer of Motorola Solutions.

“For example, AI should be designed in a way that respects human decision-making and considers the public’s input and needs, while allowing users to make better informed decisions and respond to complex threats.

“By designing advanced technologies to be assistive, we ensure that the decision-making remains the sole responsibility of humans.”

He added: “The pandemic fuelled the need to use technologies in different ways to address new challenges within a rapidly evolving environment.

“We also saw an accelerated adoption and modernisation of technologies with significantly compressed implementation timelines. This research profiles the extraordinary ways that public safety and enterprise organisations continue to adapt to changing policies and needs.”

The Consensus for Change report surveyed 12,000 citizens and interviewed 50 public safety agencies, commercial organisations and industry experts across the UK, Australia, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the Nordics (Norway, Sweden and Denmark), Singapore, Spain, Taiwan and the US.

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