Law Enforcement Looks to Google Glass Technology

Image courtesy of CopTrax from Stalker
Image courtesy of CopTrax from Stalker

Google Glass is making waves as one of the year’s most anticipated technologies. While the average “Explorer” – one of Google Glass’s approved early adopters – is interested in the eyewear’s features for use in daily life, some agencies have begun sizing up Google Glass as a tool for law enforcement and public safety. Notable testers include the New York Police Department, the nation’s largest police force, which just recently announced their evaluation of Google Glass for potential use in operations. Officers may soon be sporting the wearable technology to capture media in the field, identify suspects, call up information while on patrol, and more.

The unique technology gets its name from its key feature – a small prism of glass mounted to simplistic eyewear frames, which projects a display into your field of vision above your right eye. Touching or swiping a trackpad allows you to control the device physically, but many commands can be performed with voice recognition.

The hands-free interface of Google Glass opens up possibilities for useful applications in patrol and investigative duties, including dictating reports and capturing interviews. Net Transcripts’ capabilities allows these audio and video recordings to be received and processed into completed transcripts. Net Transcripts serves departments nationwide who have transitioned to digital dictation, effectively eliminating time spent on typing reports and freeing officers for more critical duties. Conducting interviews or recording dictations with Google Glass would give the wearer the additional convenience of virtually hands-free recording operation, allowing for increased officer awareness and safety.

While not yet on the market, Google Glass has already passed its first law enforcement field test. In late 2013, in-car video developer CopTrax joined with Georgia-based Byron Police Department to run the device through a series of police operations, including a traffic stop, arrest, and use of firearms. It outperformed existing body-worn video for clarity and the advantage of an eye-level video reviewing experience, and did not hinder officer’s view when driving and shooting service weapons. By integrating its existing software functionalities, CopTrax fitted the device with an application to receive message alerts and store location markers. The eyewear’s ability to stream video, coupled with CopTrax’s geographic metadata, can also send a live feed with the precise location of officer interactions back to headquarters for review or backup response.

Law enforcement officials have also envisioned Google Glass as a powerful identification tool. Facial recognition software would detect individuals and draw on a comprehensive database of criminal history to display a suspect’s identity and information in the officer’s field of vision. By holding a driver’s license in front of the device, officers could pull up information from the barcode and complete a citation using voice commands. Data overlays could also provide life-saving information to officers responding to emergencies, and GPS functionalities could offer immediate access to directions, floor plans, and other location data.

The retail version of Google Glass is expected to be released in 2014, and more police departments will then be able to purchase and test the technology for its positive potential as a law enforcement gadget.

EDIT 3/19/14: Follow the discussion in the Google Glass for Law Enforcement LinkedIn group.