We’ve seen the use of body worn video spread across virtually all police forces and some are now using drones and automatic facial recognition. Only a few years ago facial recognition technology seemed like science fiction but now it’s very much a reality. I went to a conference just after I was appointed as Commissioner and was given a demonstration – it was OK but could only match people when they were face on to the camera and there was a clear plain background. We’re now beginning to see facial recognition that can match faces in much more complex scenarios – side on, with trees in the background and in bad weather.
We’re also seeing technology being developed that can be linked to cameras – cameras linked to sensors that can detect explosives, cameras that use algorithms to identify weapons and cameras that can predict potential suicides at train stations. These could all have significant benefits for society.
Will we soon be seeing town centre managers using facial recognition to gather data on the demographics of who visits their towns? Will this enable them to use this information to then tailor services and amenities based on who’s visiting?
As we see the internet of things become a reality and 5G just around the corner smart cities will not be something we read about in a book, we will be living in them. Everything will be connected by superfast Wifi and CCTV cameras will be come an integral part of cities’ infrastructures.
That said local authority funding of CCTV has been in decline for some time and systems are aging – will these systems be able to support advancing technology? Equally, as organisations start to use what becomes available will that mean they collect more or different data on people as they go about their daily business? What will this mean for an individuals privacy – will there be more intrusion?
These are things that we must be mindful of. I am by no means a Luddite and in the past have championed new technology to move us out of the dark ages. Although when any significant advancements happen surely it’s only right that we have open and honest debates around what the technology is and how it will be used.