Holy Batman! Look at how IoT has transformed police cars

Cradlepoint multi-WAN routers, license plate readers and IoT sensors integrated with the FBI's crime database enhance public safety and law enforcement

The Batmobile is the ultimate crime-fighting vehicle. Today’s police cars aren’t far behind, thanks to IoT and new connectivity solutions.

Meeting the needs of both public safety and law enforcement on a tight budget is challenging. Four major requirements first have to be met.

  1. How do you respond quickly to a wide range of incidents that might occur over a large area at any time with limited police resources?
  2. How can information (such as car license plates) be collected and referenced against online databases while traveling at high speeds?
  3. How can sensors capture and process information in order to give police officers more time?
  4. How can encounters between the police and public be easily recorded in detail?

Multi-WAN routers, IoT systems, vehicle scanners, body cameras and a crime database all come together to make this possible.

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Use case

Consider a situation that illustrates how technology helps on-duty officers. A potential crime has been reported, and a police car is dispatched to respond. While driving to the crime scene, car license plates need to be scanned to see if a vehicle is stolen or if the driver is wanted by law enforcement. The precise location and movement of the police car has to be tracked in case reinforcements are needed. Encounters with possible suspects have to be recorded for evidence that might be used later.

How is all of that done without distracting police officers speeding to the crime scene?

Connectivity to go

Applying the IoT connectivity checklist, it’s clear that a cellular link is ideal to connect the police laptops, dash cams and other sensors. Separate cellular links for each device, however, are both expensive and wasteful. A LAN within the police car to which individual devices connect is a much better approach. The LAN is connected to both online crime resources and the police station through a ruggedized 3G/4G/LTE gateway installed in the trunk of the car.

The Cradlepoint COR IBR 1100 is a multi-WAN router that supports multiple carriers to provide failover and provide additional bandwidth when one cellular connection is lost or overloaded. This router also supports Band 14, which is a special frequency assigned by the FCC for use by first responders.

“Given our budgetary constraints, we had to optimize our officers’ use of their time. Giving them dependable network connectivity with Cradlepoint means that they no longer have to drive back and forth across town to headquarters to file their reports. That’s a big win for us in terms of available hours on patrol,” said Garry Beaty, CIO for the City of Boise in Idaho.

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Body Cameras

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Connor that the “reasonableness” of a particular use of police force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene. Bodycams capture an officer’s point of view at a crime scene and help agencies reduce costs, enhance public trust and create safer communities.

A study of the Rialto, California, police department showed an 88 percent drop in complaints against police and a 60 percent reduction in the use of force by police when body cameras are worn.

Over 3,500 police departments use small, battery-operated body cameras such as the Axon Body 2. Video footage is offloaded via Wi-Fi and uploaded to Evidence.com, a cloud-based repository that already stores over 3.5 petabytes of crime data.

License Plate Readers

Scanning the license plate of a moving car and checking to see if the driver should be questioned isn’t easy. Automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) systems, such as AutoVu, that automate license plate reading and identification make it easier for law enforcement to locate vehicles of interest. A video stream with the license plates of cars is uploaded via the Cradlepoint LAN in the police car to AutoVu. The license plates are checked online against the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, and the police officer is alerted if there is a positive match.

National Crime Information Center

Criminal justice agencies apprehend fugitives, locate missing persons and recover stolen property with the help of the NCIC online clearinghouse, which has over 12 million records of crime data. The NCIC database would be searched in this hypothetical example to determine if a vehicle is stolen or if the driver is wanted by law enforcement.

Some of the data in the NCIC:

  • Vehicle File: Records on stolen vehicles and those involved in crimes
  • License Plate File: Records on stolen license plates
  • Wanted Persons File: Records on individuals with federal or felony warrants


IoT systems enhance both public safety and law enforcement. YardArm gun usage sensors, for instance, automatically send alerts on the location of a gun and whether it has been unholstered or discharged. 

In addition, Fleetmatics Reveal sensors help track the precise location of a police cruiser. This active GPS tracking system continuously reports on the location, speed and direction of police cruisers.  

As the saying goes, “Always be yourself! Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.” So until the Batmobile is real, we’ll use the new connected police cruisers.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.