When it comes to digital innovation, the public safety sector is challenged to keep up with the consumer market, usually due to factors like budgetary constraints – not from a lack of desire. As technology rapidly advances and perpetrators continue to exploit technologies, digital innovation is one area where law enforcement cannot afford to play catchup.  

An opportunity to stay ahead of threats, augmented reality (AR) may prove useful for all of public safety.  AR overlays simulated images onto a user’s field of vision, whether through a phone, glasses or tablet, displaying a view of maps and floorplans, real-time intelligence and high-priority sensory data. This provides law enforcement with a commanding position while responding and evaluating a dangerous incident.  All the while, AR improves visual capabilities and communication with other team members, supervisors, commanders and mutual-aid agencies.

The everyday uses of AR technology hold high promise for those in public safety by delivering mission critical information directly to the officer, which allows for efficient response and informed decisions.  Here are just a few examples of how law enforcement is planning on using augmented reality technology:

To increase officer effectiveness and efficiency:

Augmented reality provides the most value to law enforcement by assisting officers while on tour, increasing their effectiveness by acting as a force multiplier.  As reported by the FBI, augmented reality can:

  • Use advanced optics to provide zoom, thermal and infrared imaging for the location and apprehension of fleeing criminals, buried or concealed disaster survivors or missing persons.
  • Utilize video, audio and sensing devices to visualize blood patterns, blood stains and other sensor-detectable forensic data available at crime scenes.
  • Improve situational awareness and response to problems with scalable, three dimensional maps, complete with building floor plans, sewer system schematics, public utility information and public transportation routes
  • Provide investigators with the ability to accurately match voices against known criminals with speaker recognition capability 

To help improve officer safety:

The goal of every department is to keep their officers safe by outfitting them with the proper gear, and information and preparation they need for each shift. As reported by the FBI, augmented reality can:

  • Provide biometric recognition data of known criminals, such as facial and voice-print identifiers, to allow for real-time identification
  • Create safer, more efficient driving environments during pursuit and rapid response situations by putting patrol car operator data and regional traffic management information on a heads-up display
  • Notify officers of any local chemical, biological or explosive contamination through sensors and recommend appropriate protective measures for officers and the public
  • Reduce or eliminate friendly fire casualties by highlighting fellow police officers both on and off-duty using Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) technology, worn by officers during chaotic scenes, such as a mass response to an armed aggressor incident or terrorist attack.

To help build community goodwill and trust:

The foundation of any great police force is a good relationship with their community. As reported by the FBI, augmented reality can:

  • Help officers who patrol culturally diverse neighborhoods to communicate more effectively and respectfully with instant language translation, cultural customs and traditions
  • Gather information, follow leads and visualize large amounts of data in real time to solve crimes more quickly, with the purpose of removing dangerous suspects and threats from the public.

War, terrorism and crime are never going to be totally eliminated, but whoever wins usually has the most sophisticated weaponry, whether that weapon is human might or technological superiority. It’s inevitable, that as time goes on, those two things will merge into one. AR is the first step in that direction.