Pandemic sparks demand for greater use of tech in public safety – report

28 September 2021, 00:04

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Online abuse. Picture: PA

Research from Motorola Solutions and Goldsmiths suggests the public want more innovation applied to public safety following Covid-19.

The coronavirus pandemic has made people keener to see technology used to enhance public safety – such as helping the emergency services, new research shows.

It found that the majority of people asked, including those in the UK, wanted to see more advanced technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics be used to boost public safety.

The study – by Motorola Solutions and a research team at Goldsmiths, University of London – found that more than three-quarters of people in the UK (76%) believed technology should be used to help emergency services predict risk, while 72% said tech such as video cameras, data analytics, cybersecurity and cloud computing needed to be more widely used to address the challenges of the modern world.

Called the Consensus for Change report, it said that in the wake of the pandemic and the high-speed innovation it sparked in the name of public safety, for example through vaccine development, contact tracing and other technologies, the public is willing to place greater trust in new tech.

The research highlights examples where body-worn cameras have been used to keep transport workers safe, and new digital tools for police which has enabled them to issue tickets around Covid-19 compliance while maintaining social distancing.

“Citizens all over the world are coming to terms with what it means to live with Covid-19 and how it impacts their safety,” Dr Chris Brauer, director of the Goldsmiths research team, said.

“Our shared experience of the pandemic has made us realise that technology can play a far greater role in keeping us safe and has increased our understanding of why public safety and enterprise organisations need it to respond to new threats.”

The research suggests that the pandemic may have even softened some attitudes on subjects such as data collection – according to the report, 78% of people in the UK said they were also willing to trust organisations to hold their data so long as it was used appropriately and in the interest of public safety.

However, more work is needed to increase the understanding of emerging technologies such as AI, the study showed, with only 49% of people in the UK saying they would trust AI to analyse the risk of situations as part of public safety measures.

“The pandemic fuelled the need to use technologies in different ways to address new challenges within a rapidly evolving environment,” Mahesh Saptharishi, Motorola Solutions chief technology officer, said.

“As technology continues to quickly evolve, it is critical for organisations to ensure that their advancements are built, and understood, to be human-centric.

“For example, artificial intelligence should be designed in a way that respects human decision making and considers the public’s input and needs, while allowing users to make better-informed decisions and respond to complex threats.

“By designing advanced technologies to be assistive, we ensure that the decision-making remains the sole responsibility of humans.”

By Press Association

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