During this global pandemic, we’ve learned that safety and technology have become inseparable. Experiences like QR code registrations, telehealth consultations, and video conferencing have been with us for years, but using them to help us comply with health policies and prevent the spread of the COVID virus was something entirely new. At the same time, public safety agencies and companies have accelerated their technology adoption programs.
I recently met with Motorola Solutions Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Mahesh Saptharishi, to discuss new global research developed by Dr Chris Prawer of Goldsmiths, University of London in partnership with Motorola Solutions, which explores the deeper reasons behind changes in citizen sentiment towards using technology for safety.
The research polled 12,000 members of the public, 50 public safety agencies, companies and industry experts in 12 countries and found that an overwhelming majority of 88% of citizens globally now want to see public safety transformed through the use of advanced technology.
spitarichi: “We have seen rapid adoption and upgrading of technologies in a hugely compressed implementation timeline. This innovation helps break down information silos, bring them together and create connected systems that in turn connect us and keep us productive throughout the pandemic. We have also noted the important way in which public safety agencies and commercial industries have supported the Provide their services while keeping us safe.”
The pandemic has redefined our expectations about safety
People around the world are still dealing with what it means to live in the era of COVID-19 and manage the constant uncertainty in the face of new variables. Arguably our experience with the pandemic has made us realize that technology can play an even more important role in helping to keep us safe.
The research identified that while citizens globally now want to see public safety transformed through the use of advanced technology, they feel the need for more education to support a growing understanding of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). “Technology will continue to evolve rapidly, and it is more important than ever for organizations to ensure that their innovations are human-centred,” says Sabtarichi. While clearly allowing users to make informed decisions and respond to complex threats, advanced technologies should only be complementary to the basic human view: “AI and any emerging technology should be designed in a way that respects human decision-making and takes into account the needs of the public first and foremost.”
The era of accelerated technological innovation
The research also found that 71% say advanced technologies, such as video cameras, data analytics, cybersecurity, and the cloud, are essential to meet the challenges of the modern world. Sabtarichi notes that the pandemic has changed our attitudes toward using technology for safety — even when it comes to the most controversial technologies. “Before the pandemic, people were quite skeptical about the use of biometric technology,” Spetarichi said. “However, when we translate the idea of acceptable use of that technology from a security application to providing personal safety, suddenly people are willing to think about it in a whole new way.
Accelerate change and efficiency
There are of course many opportunities to streamline operations. Prior to COVID-19, many public safety providers spent significant time filling out forms, documenting incidents, and searching for information within isolated systems. According to Saptharishi, technological innovations are transforming these monotonous, time-consuming tasks: “The most common goal with artificial intelligence (AI) is to do more with fewer resources—that is, you should only spend time doing the things you have to do. Act.
When AI is applied to a task like transcription, this information can be automatically extracted to fill out forms, giving respondents more time to focus on solving the real problem rather than documenting what they need to do.”
Over time, similar advances in technology could support emergency services and other public safety organizations to anticipate risks rather than simply respond to them.
Technology must be transparent and inclusive
As citizens’ expectations for public safety technology evolve, one thing remains very clear: they increasingly want it to be easily understood and used in ways that are transparent, fair, and inclusive. In fact, 75% of citizens surveyed said they are willing to trust the organizations that hold their information – but only if they use it appropriately.
“There are two components to this; customers want to be stakeholders in how new technology is used – they want to understand how technology can be used for the good and people’s safety and security. We also found that senior business leaders and HR professionals were concerned that technology could be misused – For example, if an employee’s work style is perceived as not being sufficiently productive, he can quickly go in the wrong direction.” Sabtarichi went on to note that 68% also believe that technology can be improved if citizens have a say in how it is used: “The real power of new technology is harnessed when society feels that ‘yes, that’s a good thing’, or that employees feel it just isn’t forced on them.”
Clearly, the pandemic has changed the way we collectively think about safety — including by redefining our expectations of trust and transparency in the technology in question.
It is clear that technology can be used to help assess risks, better forecast and assess areas of operational disruption, and critically integrate appropriate technologies to support business continuity. Yet it also reinforced the ongoing need for greater data transparency, communication, and collaboration.
Only by working with different communities and stakeholders will companies and public safety agencies support the expanded use of advanced technologies from citizens. If everyone can learn to trust each other to use that technology properly, we can come out of this pandemic stronger than we were when we got into it.
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