Face-to-face with the driver of a suspicious vehicle after making a traffic stop, an officer pulls up the suspect's arrest record, snaps a photo of a gun sitting out in plain view, requests backup and captures video of the entire incident -- all while not losing eye contact.
The idea of an officer doing all of these things through the use of a wearable camera may sound like a scene from a scene from a science fiction movie, but the concept is not as far-fetched as it may seem.
Today, more companies are creating law enforcement-based software programs that work hand-in-hand with new technology being developed in Silicon Valley.
Texas-based Stalker Radar -- which released the in-car video and officer location system CopTrax earlier this year -- recently completed the first successful field trial using Google Glass by law enforcement officials. The company plans to show the technology at its booth during the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia next week.
CopTrax Product Manager Bill Switzer told Officer.com that Stalker was quickly sold on the potential of Google's new device and decided to move forward with integrating its software in order to stay on the cutting-edge.
"We had heard about this new technology called Google Glass -- which was supposed to be this amazing technology that would give you eye-level video and a powerful computing ability, right there worn by an individual," he said. "We thought about all of the law enforcement applications and how great it would be for a police officer to have his hands free, and yet be able to capture video from his point of view."
Improving Wearable Video
While CopTrax offers a smartphone application to go along with its in-car video solution, Switzer said there are drawbacks that come with mounting a phone to an officer's uniform.
"One of the shortcomings of the smartphone app is that you physically have to have your phone mounted on your chest," he said. "One of the issues that we had was that most cops aren't used to wearing a smartphone on their chests and that smartphones come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. It seems like as soon as you make a pouch or some other type of device connected to a shirt, they've come out with a new smaller model or bigger model. It just becomes almost impossible to keep up with the form factor."
He added that another drawback is that due to the position of the camera, the view of the officer isn't always captured. "A lot of times, when your chest is pointed one way, your eyes are pointed another way," he said. "You don't actually get the perspective of the officer from his eyes."
Through the use of a head-mounted computer equipped with 5 megapixel camera that takes 720p high definition videos and includes voice recognition and a heads up display that essentially mirrors a smartphone, Google Glass offered a solution,
The CopTrax program doesn't just stream video, but also tracks the location of the officer while either in and out of a vehicle. This is something Switzer said can be an invaluable life-saving tool.
"To have the added ability to know exactly where in real-time, at all times where your officer is -- not just where his car is, but where he is as an individual -- is huge," he said. "If an officer gets out of his car, gets into a foot pursuit and is chasing someone out into a field and gets shot or hurt; to be able to know this is exactly the officer is, we have always felt like that is a lifesaving type of technology that needed to be made available to the average officer."
Working With Google Glass
The first step in integrating CopTrax into Google Glass was finding an expert that could help. Stalker reached out to Dr. Thad Starner, who is the Director of the Contextual Computing Group at Georgia Tech and is also a Technical Lead/Manager on Google's Project Glass. The company then began working directly with Georgia Tech.