Today Microsoft announced that NSW Police Force is rolling out its Azure cloud technology to further support the recent introduction of cognitive services including ethical artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to its Insights policing platform, providing front line officers with faster access to critical information for investigation purposes freeing them to focus on operational matters rather than manually data processing.
Designed with ethics front and centre, the cognitive solution has been tried and tested in recent months before being switched on fully in February 2021.
In one case, NSW Police collected 14,000 pieces of CCTV as part of a murder and assault investigation that would previously have taken detectives months to analyse. The AI/ML infused Insights platform ingested this huge volume in five hours and prepared it for analysis by NSW Police Force investigators, a process that would otherwise have taken many weeks to months.
Leveraging Microsoft Azure cognitive technologies, machine learning and deep learning capabilities, NSW Police has been able to train the system on image classification allowing it to interpret petabytes of CCTV footage automatically and at speed provide rapid access to leads that officers can pursue to ultimately solve crime faster.
The system is also expediting voice to text transcription of police interviews, and has attracted the attention of other agencies internationally as well as Federal and State law enforcement agencies locally.
Gordon Dunsford, CITO and Executive Director Digital Technology and Innovation for NSW Police said; “Using computer vision it can search to recognise objects, vehicles, locations, even a backpack someone has on their back or a tie a gentleman is wearing. It’s been used in a number of investigations already and it’s gone extremely well. It’s significantly sped up investigations and has helped police to get a result in a fraction of the time.”
He explained that while the Insights platform is currently operating on premise, Microsoft had supported NSW Police by providing a way to containerise the cognitive processing, run that in the Azure protected level cloud and then make the results securely available through the Insights platform.
The whole system demands a high-level security and according to Dunsford; “Microsoft is one of the few that can comply to such requirements.”
He said that the solution had been demonstrated to at least more than halve the time officers needed to spend poring over CCTV footage, freeing them for more frontline police work. Raj Bhaskaran, Lead Architect on Insights added that ethics had been front and centre in the way the system has been developed and trained, to ensure that bias is avoided. “We’ve engaged with stakeholders in this space to ensure we are building and deploying this leading-edge technology right.”
Since establishing its, Office of Responsible AI, Microsoft has undertaken reviews of many AI/ML solutions. These reviews are conducted by the Office of Responsible AI, with support from a globally diverse group of individuals, and examine key aspects of AI-based solutions, through the lens of our responsible AI principles and considering potential impact to human rights.
In June 2020 Microsoft confirmed that it would not sell or deploy facial recognition to United States police services. This solution aligns with that commitment because it does not use facial recognition. It uses the Azure computer vision API to identify objects that assist with police cases, bringing significant value to the NSW police in their pursuit of justice.
NSW Police is currently exploring how Azure cognitive services can be used to expedite other police work and sees ongoing opportunities to help evolve the Insights capability to support investigative processes at speed in the digital age.
As part of a major digital transformation effort, which is being steered by Dunsford, more than 200 of NSW Police’s legacy systems will be retired, re-architected or replaced with modern cloud-based systems.
The Insights platform sits alongside the recently announced Integrated Police Operating System (IPOS) which has been developed using Mark43 public safety software and which also runs on Microsoft Azure. This replaces a mainframe hosted 27-year-old database that has been the repository for information including triple zero calls, arrests and charges, criminal investigations and forensics since 1994.
NSW Police is working with Microsoft Consulting Services on the build of the IPOS application with Protected level security in the Microsoft Azure cloud.
IPOS is designed to democratise access to information to NSW Police’s 22,000 members including some 18,000 police officers, serving up useful data to their MobiPol mobile devices allowing them to take informed action and stay safe.
Together, Insights and IPOS are important building blocks for a Digital Evidence Cloud that has been built and trialled with Microsoft and is ready to scale for NSW Police.
Lee Hickin, national technology officer, Microsoft Australia said; “It has been a privilege to work alongside NSW Police on this important and ground breaking program of work. Police officers have recognised immediately how this solution can speed up the analysis of evidence, accelerating justice and freeing them for important front-line work to keep people safe.
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.
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