A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an interesting event in London hosted by Nuance. They’re a leading provider of speech, text and imaging solutions for business and consumers and have been doing some really progressive work in bringing time and efficiency saving applications to policing.
Essentially the event showcased four application areas: voice biometrics (recognising people over the phone by their speech patterns), call automation through call steering and routing, secure interview transcription and speech enabled stop and search.
Whilst all offer significant value, from a frontline perspective the applications that took my eye were the secure interview transcription and speech enabled stop and search.
The secure interview transcription provides voice to text transcription, separating the words spoken by each person in the interview into separate streams so the system always knows who is speaking and then converting that stream from voice to text. In short, automating the transcription process. When you consider just how much time and effort goes into manual transcription of interviews across the criminal justice system, if the system proves to be robust and accurate enough in real world use, the savings to be made here are potentially vast.
The speech enabled stop and search application has been trialled in Kent Police (in collaboration with the NPIA). Essentially it enables a stop check to be carried out over Airwave in a 60 second phone call without any paper being involved! Yea! In excess of 500 trial forms have been completed so far. The app guides the officer through the collection of location, ethnicity, powers, object of search and grounds, and provides a unique record identifier. The Kent Police Inspector who demonstrated the app was very enthusiastic about its use and it certainly looks like an interesting and very practical thing.
As with all these events, whilst the tools were interesting, it’s the context that eventually matters and drives adoption (or not), and a range of speakers all made the point that the ‘age of austerity’ requires that innovation and transformation be grasped. Creeping incrementalism just won’t deliver in the current context. There is clear evidence that the service at the strategic level is embracing the new reality. Lincolnshire with its G4S contract, West Mids and Surrey with their current ‘end to end’ business change tender process etc etc.
Ironically the blockages to innovation could be the very people who are about to be charged with overseeing and delivering it, the Police and Crime Commissioners. In his ‘New era in Policing’ speech to the Institute of Government, Nick Herbert called for ‘innovators, dynamic leaders, community champions, pioneers and entrepreneurs’ to step forward as PCC candidates. Judging from some of the candidate announcements and profiles that I’ve seen so far, innovation is about as likely as Fabio Capello being asked to return for a second spell as the England Manager.
In an ‘always on’, 24/7, digital world the candidates (with a few notable exceptions) appreciation of modern campaign communication is lamentable. Lame, limp, ghastly websites (where they exist), micro media channels (where they use them) full of garrulous ramblings, little use of facebook, google +, youtube, social media insight and analysis etc etc. Lots of people stepping forward with ‘an outstanding record of public service’ having served on every committee evenly remotely associated with some dimension of policing (however tangental) for a very long time. Yawn. Anyone see those previously mentioned ‘innovators, dynamic leaders, community champions, pioneers and entrepreneurs’ appearing anywhere?
Judging on the (admittedly limited at the moment) campaign evidence so far, and with a few notable exceptions, there’s going to be a lot of talk, but innovation seems in short supply.
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