Fighting Crime with Smartphones

NCIS LA Crime Solving Smartphones

Image: Cliff Lipson/CBS

Imagine being a super sleuth with the ability to look up anything with the touch of a finger, to fight crime with the latest gadgets at your disposal. Am I talking about James Bond? Nope I’m talking about NCIS: Los Angeles, the show that illustrates what solving crimes could look like with smartphones and touchscreens to speed the process.

As you can imagine from the name, the show follows the LA branch of the Naval Criminal Investigation Service. The show is a spin-off of the popular NCIS. In addition to field agents equipped with smartphones, wires, cameras and earpieces so tiny you can’t even see them, there are 2 “techies,” who can basically do anything online. These 2 stay at the home base, supporting the team as they try to solve the mystery of the week.

Here’s the cool part: technology is integrated into the team’s daily life. They send each other pictures from their smartphones of victims, perps, crime scenes, you name it. The home base of the team includes a room that is completely connected. It includes walls with giant touch screens, videoconferencing capabilities, multiple computers – you name it. Check out the video clip below to see this room in action.

I have to wonder if this is something that is already in practice, at least in part. It’s easy to imagine how much more efficient police officers or agents can be with this technology. Whereas it might have taken days to identify someone in the past, in this scenario the agent can snap a photo and send it to their home base, where facial recognition software can quickly comb social media sites and find photos of that person, even pinpoint their location and find on-site security cameras to confirm that they are still there (want to see this in action? It’s in this episode at 19:50).

Is it efficient? Or is it a violation of privacy? I think we’d all want to say it’s OK to use these types of things if someone is trying to solve a crime. But where do you draw the line? Is it also OK when looking for victims, witnesses? How about if bill collectors wanted to use it? Loan Sharks? Kind of a sticky question, and one larger than we can address in one post. But something to think about as these types of technologies continue to grow and become such a large part of our lives.


2 responses to “Fighting Crime with Smartphones

  1. Great post — and interesting implications for us as citizens who want freedom and protection at the same time – thank you for posting this — BC

  2. Pingback: Happy Birthday, Twitter! « Workplace Evolution

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