Motorola bringing AI and AR to public safety comms

AI needed to process CCTV footage

Motorola Solutions, the arm of Motorola that focuses on mission critical communications for public safety and heavy industry customers, is working on multiple fronts to enhance the capabilities of its offerings by incorporating artificial intelligence, speech recognition and augmented reality technologies.

Motorola Solutions’ CTO, Paul Steinberg, told a press briefing in Sydney this week that the amount of data and video content now available from public safety systems was becoming too much for human operators. As a result Motorola is investing heavily in assistive technologies to augment these systems.

“In the last two years we have made almost $1b in acquisitions, and that does not include Avigilon [announced on 1 February],” Steinberg said. 

“These have been all about command centres: Call taking, computer-aided despatch; analytics for predictive policing; and push to communicate services at carrier-grade scale with the acquisition of Kodiak.”

He said these technologies would be essential because, “the ability to visualise and understand all that data is beyond human capability.”

“It’s completely outpacing what a human can do,” the CTO said.

With an estimated 315 million video surveillance cameras worldwide — half of them in China — “we need to use AI to process video because we don’t enough people,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg said Motorola Solutions was now putting these acquired technologies together with its own products to create a suite of applications that work seamlessly together.

“All the way from call-taking to the analytics that drive resources, through the process of handling and despatching a response to the incident, collecting the evidence … weaving all that together so that it is not just best in breed but all integrated.”

Steinberg demonstrated the fruits of one of Motorola Solutions’ investments: A virtual command centre using Microsoft’s HoloLens technology.

The CTO said this was designed to replace the large rooms filled with dozens of screens, each showing a different piece of information about people, resources and other critical details that are typically used to manage public safety incidents.

It aims to put all this information into a pair of 3D augmented reality glasses, enabling the user to interact with holographic and virtual images to manage the incident.

Steinberg described Canadian company Avigilon, for which Motorola is paying C$1.2 billion, as “a very sophisticated video surveillance company.”

“Think of them as a video platform,” Steinberg said. “They have very intelligent cameras and they are typically deployed in large facilities such as stadiums and airports. They specialise in being able to follow individuals form camera to camera. Increasingly government will deploy this technology.”

According to Motorola Solutions’ announcement of the Avigilon acquisition, the video surveillance platform “helps transform video from reactive – looking back at what has taken place – to proactive, issuing alerts in real time when a person, object or vehicle of interest is detected. This critical intelligence enables users to take the right action more quickly.”

Kodiak Networks has a cloud-based push-to-talk management platform, which, it says, “delivers clear, reliable, instant performance over 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, and 3G networks.” It enables mobile operators around the world to offer push to talk services.

Steinberg also runs Motorola Solutions’ investment arm and he revealed that he had just made an investment in startup Edgybees, saying it would be officially announced in the next few days.

“They take video from a drone and overlay content information on it,” he said. “They can track the motion of the video and augment it with other information. “This is augmented reality. Increasingly we are making investments to make video more consumable for our users.”

According to its website, Palo Alto-based Edgybee, founded in 2016 “empowers professional drone operators with unparalleled situational awareness to maximise the effectiveness of aerial operations.”

It says it has rolled out is augmented reality technology for fire, police, and public safety pilots as a powerful control app: Edgybees First Response.

Motorola also acquired, in November 2016, Melbourne-based Gridstone, a developer of mobility applications for public safety agencies, governments and enterprise, with a particular focus on iOS.

Motorola Solutions said at the time that Gridstone would complement its Convergence Suite of software, which “enables seamless communication and enhanced awareness for teams by combining the best of digital radio networks with broadband data capabilities.’’