How assistive AI can aid public safety

The needs of our communities around the world are changing, significantly impacting the way many view the increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Public safety agencies are answering the call with assistive AI tools that protect citizens, support first responders and help the community. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined how we interact with each other, which has had important implications for municipalities around the world. For example, we have begun to see a surge in cities that are transforming into digitally-focused communities because of the need for social distancing data and the desire to rebuild local economies quickly with more efficiency.

Of course, cities relying increasingly on digital services is not a new phenomenon. The acceleration towards Smart Cities highlights the growing amount of data there is to manage — and potentially leverage. Solutions leveraging artificial intelligence not only operate more efficiently but also provide tremendous long-term benefits that present in many forms, such as reduced crime, cleaner air, traffic flow, and more beneficial government assistance to communities.

BBC journalist Richard Gray recently wrote, “AI is no longer a futuristic technology — it’s increasingly integrated into every realm of our lives.” In many cases, although most people might not realise it just yet, the changes have been significant.

Cities all over the world are incorporating data-driven technology into their emergency services and have experienced its benefits firsthand. Now, artificial intelligence and machine learning are gaining momentum as solutions are developed to help make our communities safer and more efficient.

In the public safety world, artificial intelligence must not go unchecked, as decisions can be a matter of life and death. Assistive AI is part of the answer. It can work in the background to mine and monitor tremendous amounts of operational data in real-time.

“Using artificial intelligence as an assistive tool, rather than a prescriptive one, leaves decision making up to humans,” said Jack Williams, strategic product manager for AI and analytics at Hexagon’s Safety & Infrastructure division, which recently released HxGN OnCall Dispatch | Smart Advisor. “Assistive AI provides employees timely, relevant insights they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

For example, call center dispatchers are already managing heavy work responsibilities and overload in an environment where there is so much on the line, resulting in high turnover and PTSD. With assistive AI, incident management software is helping to alleviate some of that pressure by connecting themes in calls taking place at different times and locations, which will allow for a quicker response to emergencies and in many cases, a better outcome. This can provide dispatchers with greater reassurance and confidence in their decision making, as well as develop a stronger bond between emergency response personnel and communities.

“Spotting complex emergencies faster is a need for many public safety agencies but doing so often requires a bigger picture than what any one person has access to,” said Williams. “The faster public safety agencies can detect and respond to complex events, the better they can contain the effects.”

While the idea of artificial intelligence taking complete processes and tasks currently performed by humans away can be intimidating, that’s far from the reality. In contrast, assistive AI applications are working behind the scenes to support essential workers and address issues that could not have been detected by human observation alone.

Hexagon’s HxGN OnCall® Dispatch | Smart Advisor software is a strong example of how assistive AI is bringing together real-time and historical data, helping public safety agencies identify trends and similarities in complex emergency situations.