future view

How Real-Time Intelligence improves police effectiveness

1 June 2017 • 4 min reading time

It’s every parent’s nightmare: you become distracted for a few seconds and suddenly your toddler has disappeared. At times like that, the police quickly arrive on the scene. But it is very difficult for them to work out exactly what has happened. That’s where Real-Time Intelligence (RTI) comes in.

RTI enables you to quickly collate relevant knowledge and information from a range of different systems. This helps you to reach conclusions that lead to rapid and appropriate action. “This scenario is still beyond our capabilities, but our work in the Real-Time Intelligence Lab is bringing innovative solutions like this ever closer”, says Christiaan van den Berg, Programme Manager for Secure Society at TNO. The Real-Time Intelligence Lab (RTI Lab) was set up by TNO, in cooperation with the National Police Corps and The Hague Security Delta (HSD; the national security cluster). The lab is an experimental environment in which these organizations cooperate with companies and knowledge institutions to test hardware, software, methods, models and working practices, both individually and in combination. TNO contributes expertise in areas such as IT, modelling, artificial intelligence and human behaviour.

Taking effective action based on real-time information

‘Real time’ means that up-to-date data is available, without delay. Enriching this data with information from other sources and with knowledge creates ‘intelligence’. On the one hand, this intelligence needs to be complete, on the other, it needs to be stripped of all unnecessary data. Real-Time Intelligence enables the police to quickly take the right decisions in a range of different situations, and to act effectively. In the example of the missing child, it should be possible to find a recent photo and to distribute this immediately through social media, accompanied by appealing hash tags. If the police are to act effectively, they need real-time information about the child and the surrounding area.

“You can highlight places in the vicinity where a child might logically be found, such as toy shops or parks”

Smart links for up-to-date information

“We are working on systems that present typical types of behaviour for children of that particular age”, says Mr Van den Berg. “For example, you can highlight places in the vicinity where a child might logically be found, such as toy shops or parks. Details of the routes to these places (for people on foot, travelling by bicycle, or by car - including any roadworks) are then displayed on the screens of the police officers assigned to the case. The use of smart links means that a system like this will also highlight such things as a recent report about a local resident who was seen behaving suspiciously in the vicinity of a child. The control room staff can then check to see whether that person’s car is in the vicinity, for example.”

Intelligent pooling of data sources

“It’s about intelligently pooling a range of different data sources which, together with the available knowledge, might suggest a suitable course of action. So, rather than a long list of options from which the police officers have to choose, there are just a few suggestions concerning logical courses of action. This is because the system uses scientific research, computer models and up-to-date information to calculate the most likely hypothesis. All sorts of really cool technologies have been developed to make data more accessible, but the trick is to combine them into a tool that is of practical use to the police.”

“We can use the RTI Lab to conduct experiments on new applications and concepts that could improve police work”

Forecasting crime

In the RTI Lab, all relevant developments throughout the world are scanned and their relevance for RTI is assessed. The various parties involved perform a range of experiments. Some of these, for example, involve attempts to predict crimes through the use of big data and algorithms. In addition, the lab has been experimenting with the use of multitouch tables, as an aid to the decision-making process. These are used by the ‘Large-scale Special Operations Unit’, a coordinating unit that swings into action in a disaster or crisis.

Improving police work

Integrated and up-to-date information provision can help to accelerate and improve the decision-making process with regard to effective action. Jan ter Mors, Intelligence Programme Manager for the National Police Force, explains that “The RTI Lab is of value to the police because we can use it to conduct highly professional experiments (together with security partners, knowledge institutes and members of the public involved in the operation) on new applications and concepts that could improve police work.”

“We are cooperating to create a safer world and to promote growth in the sector”

Experiments give an indication of applicability

“RTI will always be a work in progress. That’s why we are always keen to try out new things together in the RTI Lab, and to show what works and what doesn’t,” says Christiaan van den Berg. “These experiments provide insight into the usefulness of various ideas, working practices or technologies for the police, security regions, local authorities or security companies.” HSD facilitates cooperation between companies, the public sector and knowledge institutions, to help them come up with innovative solutions. “The RTI Lab is a prime example of this”, says Mark Ruijsendaal of HSD. “When parties with specific knowledge and tools are brought together, a synergy develops that generates new insights into the value and applicability of innovations in this area. We provide our partners with a reliable innovation base, with scope for scaling up. This is how we are cooperating to create a safer world and to promote growth in the sector.”

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