Africa Business Communities
[Column] Stephen Bottger: The power of data analytics to revolutionise public safety

[Column] Stephen Bottger: The power of data analytics to revolutionise public safety

The use of applications, technology and data analytics can play a significant role in public safety globally. The potential of data to improve public safety is multifaceted, and an exciting reality of what is available already, as well as what is to come. Locally, the potential is endless, yet compared to many international markets, very few of the opportunities available are being applied. 

While South Africa may not be as advanced as many global counterparts when it comes to data-driven safety, there are projects that illustrate just what an impact this technology can have on society. During the pandemic we have seen a collaboration between technology solutions providers and telecommunications companies; enormous amounts of data were collected and used to identify pandemic hotspots, impacting the allocation of scarce medical and policing resources and potentially saving many lives. 

Undoubtedly, the transformative influence of technology in public safety has seen a noteworthy partnership. Altron Systems Integration embarked on a proof of concept with the South African Police Service to look at the feasibility of using advanced image recognition tools and surveillance technology. The intention is to use cameras placed around different cities are able to use highly scalable, deep learning technology to identify objects, people, text, scenes, and activities in both images and videos, as well as detect any inappropriate content, far beyond only identifying facial features. 

What this means is that the data collected could detect if someone is wearing glasses or even holding a weapon, with this new technology taking the use of image recognition to a whole new level, keeping our communities safer and making our cities smarter. 

Balancing the innovation, privacy, ethics, and cybersecurity aspects of any data-driven technology is crucial, with the protection of personal information being non-negotiable. 

Access control and compliance are key. All data can only be accessed when there is an investigation and police clearance will be required to access this data. 

Additional access controls across the board include POPIA locally, and GDPR compliance for some of Altron’s UK-based clients, as well as the use of local partners to ensure that all data is kept in the country.  

Particularly in a South African context, the responsible use of data analytics and predictive modelling, linking platforms to build profiles and identify trends in order to utilise the limited resources that we have more effectively, is where the magic lies.  

From a crime prevention perspective, law enforcement and emergency services have the potential to access vast amounts of data to anticipate and prevent crimes or accidents, pinpoint trouble hotspots and allocate resources, thereby deterring incidents before they happen. This is where the analysing and management of data really is and will continue to build a smarter and safer society.  

Tech is advancing so fast that if we embrace and adapt to it, the possibilities of using it to enhance safety are unlimited. While we may not know exactly what this looks like in the future, the balancing act of protection without being too invasive is key and the reality of data for public safety is real and is here.  

By linking different data collection platforms, a specialist provider and other partners including stakeholders have the potential to identify trends, build profiles and integrate the use of this data to a much larger extent. 

Using and interpreting real-time data which is available on large-scale enterprise platforms has infinite possibilities. Partnering with a technology solutions provider means that we can build and optimise these platforms and support these initiatives, partnering with businesses that can make a difference where it matters most. 

The integration of technology and data into public safety is providing unprecedented tools, applications and capabilities to respond to and prevent crises, and keep our citizens safer. There is endless capacity available, a multitude of iterations that exist and solutions available now for data and associated applications to have a real impact on public safety. 

Steve Bottger is the Executive Software Engineering at Altron Systems Integration.








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