“Memory will be everywhere,” said author Don Peppers back in the mid-1990s. The management consultant’s point, which he continues to repeat to this day, is that every time we interact with – or through – a digital device, we leave a memory that others can potentially access.
The 2002 science fiction thriller Minority Report offered a graphic portrayal of what life might be like when memory is everywhere. It showed the police arresting people for crimes they had yet to create, because their “PreCrime” unit predicted the exact time and place of such a crime.
While Minority Report relied on three psychics to make predictions, police in 2020 are more likely to predict crime patterns based on technology innovations in predictive analytics, geospatial mapping, sensor networks, and drones. By 2020, we could see on-demand, real-time, and pervasive policing take root. Such next generation policing is likely to be based on troves of data, technologies that converse with that data, and an analytics layer that provides actionable insights.
Sensor networks and drones generate data from everywhere and everything
As sensor networks proliferate and drone policing becomes a reality, data generation will explode. As sensors become smaller, cheaper and more powerful, they will measure things that were previously not measurable. This is an absolute game changer for police departments, providing digital eyes and ears that see close to everything, and that don’t forget.
Drones may supplement patrols and even replace human officers in high-risk situations such as bomb threats and riots. This is not much of a prediction on our part; even consumers already have access to camera-equipped drones that they can remotely pilot into and around buildings.
Crowdsourced data offers another source of rich, unstructured insights to the future policing system. We have already seen instances, such as the London riots in 2011, in which the London police crowdsourced the identities of perpetuators through a mobile app.
Analytics as a powerful law enforcement tool
Crime mapping, geospatial prediction, data mining, and social network analysis should help deliver faster response times. Such analytics layers have the potential to revolutionize law enforcement, providing the intelligence required to prevent or thwart crimes. For instance, the PredPol tool piloted in Los Angeles (LA) and Santa Cruz police departments helps develop probabilities of future crime events, and has already brought down property crimes by 13 percent in one division.
For years, closed circuit television footage has helped solve crimes. The advances in video analytics capabilities raises the potential for video feeds to transform visual data into real-time intelligence. Singapore’s Safe City Test Bed project plans to do exactly that, by applying predictive analytics to live video feeds from the streets.
By 2020, police professionals should be significantly deeper into the “memory is everywhere” world, and the result is likely to move law enforcement towards an ongoing conversation between the field and a near-constant flow of video, audio, and data. From mounted sensors to handheld and wearable devices, more and more of the real world will be recorded and replayed.
Viewed in this context, it’s not that farfetched to anticipate the rise of crime prevention officers (CPO); UK’s Policy Exchange envisions CPOs to be a part of the police cadre in the near future.
To learn about other future trends in law and justice, click here—Law and Justice.
William D. Eggers leads Deloitte’s public sector research and is the author of 8 books, including his newest, The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises are Teaming up to Solve Society’s Toughest Problems (Harvard Business Press 2013). You can connect with him at @wdeggers or by email at email@example.com