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Lancashire Police has launched a voice-driven Amazon Alexa skill, giving citizens hourly news updates on what is going on in their local area.
The app also sends pictures of wanted criminals and missing people straight to people’s Amazon Echo devices.
The free Amazon Alexa skill was created by PC Rob Flanagan, Lancashire Constabulary’s innovation manager, together with developers from Amazon. Flanagan said the police are always looking at new ways to engage with local communities.
“Alexa works alongside traditional policing methods to inform the public about the important issues in their neighbourhoods,” he said. “Voice-activated searches now account for 10% of online searches and are expected to rise to 50% by 2020.
“We want to be at the forefront of this new technology to make it easier for the public to access the information they want to know.”
Lancashire Police believes it is the first force in the UK to use Amazon Echo’s voice-controlled assistant in this way and it is also looking at ways to use Alexa to support policing priorities.
“It is still very much in its infancy, but we are looking forward to exploring ways in which we can use this technology in the communities we serve,” said Flanagan.
Last week, policing minister Nick Hurd called on forces across the country to embrace the opportunities brought by new technologies, saying it was “absolutely essential” to make the most of 21st century technology to help save police time and solve crimes.
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“While policing’s greatest asset is its people, its biggest opportunity is technology,” said Hurd. “I see transforming our police forces so they are thoroughly equipped for the digital age as critical to our shared mission – cutting crime and protecting the public.”
Last year, Amazon began a huge push for the use of Alexa in the workplace, launching its Alexa for Business service at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Re:Invent partner and user conference in Las Vegas.