Body Cams Are No Longer Just Video Devices


UK police were among the first to deploy officer body cams way back in 2005. The goal was to use cameras to record video so as to enhance police operations and improve accountability. They worked so well that all of the UK adopted them just two years later. Our own Department of Justice began encouraging local police agencies to follow suit some five years later.

Body cams are standard issue for U.S. police agencies these days. Citizens appreciate them because they make police officers more accountable in the field. Investigators appreciate them because they provide valuable evidence that can be used to track down and prosecute criminals. But know this: the body cams of 2020 are far more advanced than their 15-year-old predecessors.

Rock West Solutions, a company that develops high-tech sensors for law enforcement and other first responders, explains that the internet of things (IoT) has been a game-changer in body cam technology. Indeed, we aren’t even calling them body cams anymore. Now they are ‘smart mobile sensors’.

Data Gathering Machines

The modern body cam is a data gathering machine. Its video camera and microphone represent just a small portion of what these devices are capable of. Best of all, the devices are connected with highly advanced computer systems thanks to the IoT.

A typical device captures audio, video, and location data in real time. Some of the better devices are built with passive technology capable of triggering other sensors as a police officer goes about his or her business. For example, a police officer investigating shots fired could trigger a pole-mounted security camera to tilt or zoom just by walking by.

Rock West says all the data collected by modern body cams is sent to a central location where artificial intelligence and signal processing software analyzes it on multiple levels. This makes body cams as much monitoring technology as surveillance technology.

Enhanced Mitigation, Faster Response

So what does it all mean? From a law enforcement perspective, it means enhanced mitigation and faster response times. Law enforcement and city management agencies are working together to utilize the data harvested by body cams in order to make cities safer places to live.

Some data can be used to mitigate small problems before they become full-scale crises. Data can be used to identify potential crime before it happens, thus giving law enforcement opportunity to head things off at the pass. And when crime does occur, access to information allows law enforcement to respond more quickly.

Disaster response is another important aspect here. During a natural disaster, law enforcement efforts are spread thin having to both help those in need and prevent criminal activity. Big data streamlines their efforts and puts officers in those places where they are needed most.

Sacrificing Privacy

The modern body cam and its data-gathering capabilities are a particularly important tool for law enforcement. Yet it comes at a cost. That cost is a little less privacy for the rest of us. With so many ways to monitor what is going on in the world, you and I can no longer leave our homes and expect that no one is paying attention to where we’re going and what we’re doing. It is just not realistic.

The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not enhanced security is worth the loss of privacy. Be careful before you answer. The same technologies that work to keep you safe could also be used to deny you your freedom and liberty. It is a fine line we have to walk now that the technology is out there.

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