Published: Sep 22, 2023
public safety enforcement needs to evolve alongside the metaverse – but how?
This article was first published in Govinsider.
GovInsider sits down with experts from information, communications and technology (ICT) service provider, NCS, to find out how advancements in the metaverse, 5G, and robotics will be used to enhance public safety in the years to come.
In October 2022, at the 90th INTERPOL General Assembly in New Delhi, the first ever Metaverse specifically designed for law enforcement worldwide was unveiled.
Registered personnel are now able to tour a digital twin of the global police organisation’s headquarters in Lyon France from anywhere on earth, take immersive training courses in forensic investigation, and interact with other officers through their avatars.
As threats advance, so too does technology. The Homeland Security industry is embracing the metaverse, digital twins, robotics, and 5G connectivity to stay ahead of the curve.
Digital transformation leaders these days are looking to the gaming industry as the “gold standard” for virtual and extended reality applications in public safety, according to Leonardo Tan, Innovation Lead for Public Safety & Security Industry at NCS, a multinational information technology company.
For VR and AR developers to match up to the standards the gaming world has set, developers need a very strong understanding of a combination of emerging technologies in order to be able to simulate the real environment at high-fidelity.
“NCS is probably one of the first in the world to explore these emerging technologies for public safety, and we’re looking at a timeline of just one to two years to make them operational,” says Tan.
GovInsider speaks to the NCS team to find out just what we can expect in public safety enforcement tech in the near future.
Training in the metaverse
The metaverse can help Homeland Security in two key ways: investigation and training, according to Elton Loh, Client Service Lead at NCS.
“We can use the metaverse to recreate a crime or incident scene, especially in cases where there were no witnesses present. By creating a playback of a very realistic environment, we can allow investigation officers to look at the various possibilities of what exactly happened,” says Loh.
For instance, metaverse simulations could be used to narrow down exactly where a sniper could be hiding in a building by recreating the trajectory of a bullet, Loh adds.
Police officers on the ground would just need to do a 3D scanning of the scene, allowing chief investigators that are not physically present at the scene to guide and advise investigations through the simulation.
Similarly for training, the metaverse helps to significantly reduce cost and safety risks by literally providing a whole room of possibilities in the virtual space. “These could include simulations of high-risk scenarios such as tactical driving, allowing them to first hone their skills and expect the unexpected in the virtual world,” Tan adds.
The INTERPOL has already kickstarted its virtual training programmes in their metaverse classrooms. In a live demonstration, the INTERPOL Capacity Building and Training Directorate immediately transported students to a virtual customs after delivering a course on passenger screening and travel document verification.
Where 5G and robotics enter
Public safety is no longer just a human endeavor – robots of all shapes and sizes have now joined the front lines.
For example, during the 2022 National Day Parade at Marina Bay, a fleet of drones, patrol robots, and stationed cameras were deployed for crowd control and monitoring, CNA previously reported.
“In the public safety environment, you need different robots to do different things across various terrains and use cases – but you want to have one single platform to control all these robots together,” says Loh.
The NCS robot manager helps organisations like the Singapore Police Force manage all of them collectively as a fleet, across different brands or interfaces, or control systems.
Together with the advancement of 5G infrastructures, the field of robotics can see even greater potentials with significantly lowered latencies. “Where robotics are concerned, we want systems that can react to and transmit information instantaneously – so low latency is very important, and 5G will be a game changer in this area,” says Loh.
As a subsidiary of Singtel group, NCS is at the forefront of beta testing new technologies alongside 5G rollouts and looking to transform the way Singapore’s Home Team Agencies operate.
New tech, new risks
As with the advent of anything new, however, these emerging technologies come with certain risks.
In an 2022 observatory report Europol Innovation Lab identified that the metaverse can potentially exacerbate identity theft, money laundering and scams, harassment, terrorism, and misinformation. Zero-trust models and blockchain technology will become critical to secure the future of the metaverse, GovInsider previously discussed.
“We need to understand the risks involved in order to be able to address them and gain public trust, as the metaverse is a new vector for criminals to operate, and it needs to be properly regulated” says Tan.
The challenge, Tan adds, arises from the unprecedented interoperability of different platforms. Especially for applications in the homeland security industry, an airtight environment is needed to deal with highly sensitive information, and secure authentication for involved parties is critical to the adoption of such technologies.
“We have to address this at the policy and legislation levels, and this means that authorities will need to understand the mechanisms behind these crimes,” says Tan.