Mobile

San Francisco’s “bat computer” keeps police on the streets for longer

The San Francisco police department has announced the development of its very own crime-fighting “bat computer” to help keep officers on the streets for longer.

In the nation’s technological capital, it is striking how the city’s institutions have been hindered by 1970s-era technology. “Remember, we just got e-mail last year,” San Francisco police chief Greg Suhr joked in a press conference Monday. “We’ve left the Post-it days behind.”

Kidding aside, this news marks the beginning of a budding relationship between the SFPD and the city’s tech community. The San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology & Innovation, aka sf.citi, founded by Silicon Valley investor Ron Conway, is contributing $100,000 to the development of the field reporting app.

“We thought it would be very apropos for sf.citi to get involved in helping San Francisco’s police department leapfrog technology and be a national showcase for the use of technology,” said Conway in an interview with the Bay Citizen. 

The SFPD is working closely with ArcTouch, a local app development studio, to help police officers gain access to all their crime data without having to return to the station. The mobile app will allow the next generation of cadets to spend more time in the streets and less time filing out paperwork.

Previously, officers had to use a variety of low-tech methods in their reporting, including paper logs and handheld recorders. “The idea is to use mobile technologies to do a lot of this automatically and passively to capture a much richer set of information,” said Adam Fingerman, ArcTouch’s chief operations officer, in an interview with VentureBeat.

Fingerman uses the example of an officer taking a photograph to record a crime scene. The app will immediately tag the longitude and latitude of where the officer was at that exact moment.

“The overall goals are to reduce typing wherever possible by capturing information from tapping and talking,” he added. The hope is that the mobile app will reduce the time police officers need to leave the streets by 40 percent.

The app will not be in use for 3-6 months but Fingerman said he has already been contacted by municipal groups in Canada, Florida and the Peninsula to develop a similar pilot service.

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