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Policing should embrace IoT opportunities

The internet of things brings more opportunities than challenges for the UK’s police forces, according to a TechUK report that urges the police to embrace digital technologies

UK police forces should address both the challenges and the opportunities brought by the internet of things (IoT), according to a TechUK report.

The report highlights a number of steps UK police forces should take to create a “digitally skilled” police force, ready for the rise of IoT-enabled devices and technology.

This includes improving digital skills across the police, giving officers on the ground “greater confidence in using technology”, particularly when it comes to cyber crime, the report said.

“The capability of first-responders is crucial in building the public’s trust and confidence in the police’s ability to tackle cyber crime,” it said. “This is important if victims are to be encouraged to report these crimes, especially as cases of online crime grow with the IoT.

“Embedding of digital skills throughout key policing education and development – both as a standalone module and throughout wider teaching – will give more officers greater confidence in exploiting technology.”

This would include a focus on digital forensics, cyber crime and data analytics, which should all be embedded across the curriculum, “with each part requiring an associated level of digital awareness”, the report said.  

TechUK also called for the police to partner with industry and academia to access specialist external skills and capabilities. Commenting on the report, Richard Berry, chief officer lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s digital investigation and intelligence programme, said the digital environment “presents a number of challenges for public safety and the prevention and detection of crime”.

“Police forces across the country have already adapted locally and there are many pockets of good practice. However, digital challenges can be different to those previously familiar to many in policing,” said Berry. 

“Working in new partnerships will help the police service discover and respond to threats and opportunities better and, in particular, closer working with industry will be critical. 

“In order to fight crime in the digital age, it is vital that police have a good understanding of market capabilities. It will be important to ensure a regular exchange of ideas is facilitated, for police and industry to work collaboratively in responding to new crime and security issues.”

IoT as a crime deterrent

Although IoT devices present a growing security risk, particularly when it comes to private information – such as connected devices that hold personal data, and smart home devices to which a burglar could potentially gain access to figure out when a person is not home – the IoT also brings opportunities for police forces.

“IoT devices ranging from home security systems to sensors across smart cities will help enable police to know, in the most serious crimes, where a suspect was, who they were with and what they were doing,” the report said.

“Some have theorised that this may indeed act as a deterrent, as criminals know they have a far more likely chance of being caught. Clearly, the potential gains in public safety have to be balanced with privacy and ethics concerns.

“Many advanced technologies being trialled are in early developmental stages. However, it is undeniable that new technologies offer potential for the police to provide superior public safety to their communities.”

With the growing presence of digital devices, most crimes now leave a “digital footprint”, the report added. This gives police the opportunity to acquire third-party data and to interrogate new data in real time.

Henry Rex, TechUK’s programme manager for justice and emergency services, said police forces need to acquire the right technology to do their work effectively in a digital world.

“If the police can get to grips with the IoT now, they will not only be able to mitigate against potential threats, but will also be able to seize the opportunity,” he said. “An IoT-enabled police force would lead to increased efficiency and enhanced public safety.”

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