Voices from Accenture Public Service

Technology is rapidly transforming society, blurring the lines not just between the physical and virtual worlds, but between organisations and the individuals they serve. In creating the London Metropolitan Police Service, Sir Robert Peel declared that, “The police are the public and the public are the police.” That assertion takes on another dimension and potentially become more complex in an era where digital technologies are enabling citizens and public safety organisations to interact in new ways and share information in a fast-evolving virtual world.   

Accenture’s 2018 Technology Vision, our annual analysis of the technology trends influencing the future of business and society, identified five key technology trends that are empowering individuals, organisations and governments to reimagine what’s possible and therefore helping to shape the future of public safety. These trends will collectively impact on the next generation of public safety professionals and the public and communities they serve, helping to create a more safe and secure future.We’ve also developed a special public safety perspective on the findings.  

These technologies are illuminating the path to a more secure future. And in doing so, they’re further blurring the distinction – if ever there was one – between the police and the public they serve.   

So, what are these trends? The first is “Citizen AI: Raising AI to Benefit Society”. Our research across 25 countries found that 70% of public service executives plan to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) in the coming year. And 78% of these recognise the importance of gaining citizens’ trust and confidence by being transparent in their AI-based decision-making. The message is clear: public safety organisations understand not just the potential of AI to be a powerful new ally in preventing and detecting crime, but also the importance of teaching it to act responsibly, openly and without bias. 

The second trend is “Extended Reality: The End of Distance”. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) – both forms of extended reality (XR) – delivering immersive experiences that relocate people in time and place. In our study, 73% of public service respondents said it will be important to use XR solutions to close physical gaps between citizens and employees, and over half said they’re building a strategy to do this.  

What’s more, VR could help law enforcement agencies address complex or sensitive situations. For example, a UK force has already used a virtual “cave” to train officers for real life domestic violence cases.  And it’s not just police officers who can learn from the heightened realism. We’re also seeing use of this technology in the courtroom to give jurors an immersive experience of a crime-scene. As well as combining XR with AI to project vital information to officers in the field at the point of need.  

The third trend is “Data Veracity: The Importance of Trust”. As public safety organisations become increasingly data-driven, their effectiveness could be compromised by inaccurate or manipulated information: 78% of public service respondents agree they’re basing critical decisions on data that can’t always be verified. To address this risk, agencies need good visibility of the provenance, context and integrity of their data, scrutinising data patterns as rigorously as they monitor for changes in criminals’ behaviour. Police forces have had intelligence units for many decades, but they must establish data intelligence units that combine smart technologies and human insight. Verifying data for evidentiary purposes will be equally important – an area where technologies like blockchain come into play.  

Fourth, “Frictionless Public Safety: Built to Partner at Scale”. The police and criminal justice systems can’t solve complex public safety issues on their own. They need partnerships with health, social services, education and so on. These are happening: 36% of our government sector respondents said the number of partner organisations they work with has doubled in the past two years. To build strong foundations for technology-based partnerships, agencies should look at adopting microservices, blockchain and smart contracts – technologies that can all boost certainty, collaboration and inter-agency trust. 

Our fifth trend is “The Internet of Thinking: Creating Intelligent Distributed Systems”. As the volume of data flowing from people, devices, vehicles and sensors continues to expand, public safety organisations must act to harness it and turn it into actionable intelligence. This demands significant changes across processes, infrastructure and service design, including implementing customisable hardware that makes devices at the edge of networks more powerful and energy-efficient. For example, some cities are using sensors in the sewers to detect the amount of drugs, enabling a more proactive approach to reducing public harm.  

The technology trends outlined in Accenture’s 2018 Technology Vision all point to a future where public safety is more collaborative, connected and intelligent than ever. New forms of data – and the use of AI to make sense of them – are empowering public safety agencies to sense, predict and act more decisively.  Meanwhile, the distinctions between the physical and digital world will continue to blur. By empowering people to do more, these new technologies will shape the future of public safety and ensure better public safety outcomes. It is critical, however, that trust and legitimacy with the public and communities that public safety agencies serve remain top priorities as the technology revolution continues. 

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