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Police issue new smartphones, robots to aid officers in duties

SINGAPORE — Using customised mobile apps on smartphones issued by the police, some frontline law enforcement officers will soon be able to securely share and access immediate information on unfolding cases.

Police issue new smartphones, robots to aid officers in duties

(From left) The S5 Pan-Tilt-Zoom patrol robot, the Multi-purpose All Terrain Autonomous Robot 2.0 and the FURo-D Future Robot were on display during the Police Workplace Seminar. These are examples of the latest technologies used by the police to enhance its frontline operations.

SINGAPORE — Using customised mobile apps on smartphones issued by the police, some frontline law enforcement officers will soon be able to securely share and access immediate information on unfolding cases.

Eight thousand officers across the operations, investigation and intelligence units will be issued these police smartphones – different models under Samsung – by March next year. Some 700 officers from the Central Police Division are already using them.

This was one of the initiatives shared at the annual Police Workplan Seminar held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design on Thursday (May 3).

The police said the use of smartphones will allow officers to respond faster and more effectively to incidents, even when they are off-duty. The apps were also specifically developed to help officers who are out on the field.

For example, a secure messaging platform allows officers to communicate and share information directly through encrypted text messages and multimedia files. Before this, ground officers could only send such information to the command centre through a mobile data terminal device issued when they report for duty.

There is also an Investigation Officer E-Diary that allows the officers to directly key in their field notes while they are out in the field instead of transferring these notes into the system after returning to the office.

The closed-circuit television mapping lets officers identify cameras in the locations of interest before contacting the owner to retrieve any relevant footage, while the Mobile-Create app lets officers refer to the Standard Operating Procedures and policies as they make their way down to an incident scene or when they are off-duty.

In the next two to three years, the smartphone could contain apps that allow officers to check their deployment status while they are off-duty, or issue alerts when they enter a high-crime area.

The police said smartphone security remains their top-most concern and they have worked with the relevant government agencies and industry players to come up with security measures, such as remotely wiping out the smartphone should an officer misplace it.

The Singapore Police Force is not the first to adopt the use of smartphones in their operations. Officers in cities such as New York, Antwerp and Shenzhen have also adopted similar operating models.

The police declined to reveal the costs involved in issuing these smartphones.

While some officers took a while to adjust to switching from their Apple iPhones to the Samsung ones, they have also found the apps useful.

For Assistant Superintendent Chia Xinling, 26, instead of relying on verbal descriptions given by officers on the ground, she gets a more accurate assessment of the situation by accessing photos and information through the secure messaging platform.

"Immediately, you get an idea of how the situation is, the injuries for instance, (and can prevent possible) miscommunication," she added.

Assistant Superintendent Lee Ting Wei, 27, said the IO e-diary minimises any duplication of work and makes it easier for him to search for relevant entries.

"This translates to a lot of time savings for me, which I can use to do investigative work," he added.

3D HANDHELD SCANNER AND ROBOTICS

From next month, crime scene specialists will be able to use a 3-D handheld scanner — which weighs about 1kg — to capture 3-D images of confined crime scenes and hard-to-reach areas.

A 3-D handheld scanner. Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY

This is meant to complement the existing terrestrial laser scanner that is bulkier and weighs up to 13kg.

Other technologies on display at the seminar were two robots for patrolling.

One was the commercially available S5 Pan-Tilt-Zoom Patrol Robot, tested at this year's Chingay to enhance event security. It can patrol autonomously and provide a live video feed to the command post, for instance.

The other was M.A.T.A.R 2.0 (Multi-purpose All Terrain Autonomous Robot), which was built in-house to detect any sound anomalies, such as from drones, and allows for human-robot interaction, such as when getting individuals to scan their thumbprint for identification purposes.

The M.A.T.A.R 2.0 (Multi-purpose All Terrain Autonomous Robot). Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY

The robot, developed by the MHA's Office of the Chief Science and Technology Officer in partnership with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's Institute for Infocomm Research, was first tested for a year at the Home Team Academy last September. Going forward, it would be upgraded to detect intruders, work with other robots and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Asked about the possible reduced police presence on the grounds if these patrolling robots are deployed, the police said the increasing use of technology has been effective at solving cases and preventing crime.

"This is another area of technology that we are exploring that will complement officers in areas where we may not need to deploy officers and that will then allow us to deploy officers in areas that matter," he added.

A "friendlier"-looking robot is the Future Robot Display or Furo-D, which can interact with people and share crime prevention messages with the public. It was previously piloted at one of the police community engagement events at Sengkang-Punggol last year.

The Future Robot Display or Furo-D, which can interact with people and share crime prevention messages with the public. Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY

All three robots are still in their pilot phases, and there is no specific timeline on when they could be rolled out.

"In the next one or two years, we would enhance and step up the operational trials and deployment of these robots... the technology will continue to evolve in the private and commercial sectors, we want to learn and adapt from the latest and it will be an evolving journey," added the police.

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