New technology means new problems
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Mar 27, 2002
For the criminal justice community, new technology is never a simple solution.
In some cases, it's a case of learning how to take full advantage of
an emerging field, such as Extensible Markup Language or biometrics. In
other cases, it's a matter of waiting for the technology to mature, such
as voice recognition software.
At the very least, new technology requires government agencies to think
about the ways they do business, said law enforcement officials and technology
vendors attending the 2002 SEARCH Integrated Justice Information Systems
Symposium in Washington, D.C.
"Technology in [and] of itself is not a solution to your problems,"
said Matthew D'Alessandro, a product manager at Motorola Inc.'s Integrated
Solutions Division. "You need to be able to blend technology with business
Gordon Wasserman, an independent consultant specializing in management
of police agencies, said that police chiefs are also taking responsibility
for reducing crime and are willing to be judged on how they do that. They
are also much more knowledgeable about how technology can be used as a tool
to combat crime.
"It used to be something they had to put up with," he said.
Some technology clearly could have a dramatic impact, though not necessarily
at the pace that might be expected or hoped.
XML is a case in point. Jeff Langford, a technology specialist with
Microsoft Corp.'s state and local government division, said he believed
that XML, which allows agencies to tag information so it's easier to exchange
between systems, would be an important technology for information sharing,
but that any large-scale change will take five or more years. In the meantime,
Langford said, agencies can rely on middleware, which is software designed
to manage exchanges between applications.
Other technology is difficult to grasp because it is changing so fast.
Handheld technology for mobile applications, said Michael Stein with
Gartner Consulting, is changing at the same "bewildering pace as PCs did
at one point." He said Gartner is predicting that more than 50 percent of
mobile applications deployed at the start of 2002 will be obsolete at the
end of 2002.
Use of biometrics, which uses unique physiological, biological and behavioral
characteristics to identify individuals, is just beginning, several experts
said. While the technology is promising — electronic fingerprinting is
already used widely — it may not live up to the hype that surrounds it.
Biometrics is being "positioned as a panacea," which can cause greater
harm, said Samir Nanavati, a founding partner with International Biometric
Group, a consulting and integration firm. The different biometrics available
may be appropriate for some uses and not for others and products must be
looked at for their quality and effectiveness, he said.
After Sept. 11, many airports and government agencies have employed
or are considering facial recognition technology or iris or retinal scanning,
among other technologies, as a verification tool.
"We view it has nothing more than another tool in a tool bag to solve
investigations," said Lt. Jim Main with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
in Florida, where a facial recognition system is being developed.