“Alexa, I’d like to report a crime”: Your Amazon Echo could soon be used to dial 999

Alexa certainly isn’t the first “person” you’d turn to, to report a crime, but that could all be about to change. 

“Alexa, I’d like to report a crime”: Your Amazon Echo could soon be used to dial 999

By 2018, the smart assistant may very well be the device you ring up instead of 101 or 999. 

Tentatively available “from February or March 2018”, Lancashire Police is set to roll out localised updates on crime which you will be able to access via a smart home speaker, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. According to Rob Flanagan, the Innovation Chief of Lancashire Police, people will initially be able to ask Alexa for daily crime reports and information on terror attacks.

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 However, the UK-based police force has much bigger hopes for its Alexa tie-in. While the initial release will allow the public to ask questions such as: “What do I do with this lost property?” or “How do I report this?”, a future release will let you report crimes just by talking to Alexa. 

“I would like to be the first force to use this for crime reporting. We are a long way off from that, but the technology is there. We would definitely be there by the end of 2018,” Flanagan told MailOnline.

In 2016, timewasters made 20,000 calls to the emergency services in the UK at a cost of more than £500,000. Theemergency services received calls from people asking ridiculous things like ‘is it safe to eat a potato that’s green on the top?’ or the, now notorious, ‘there’s a fox outside and I’m scared’ call. 

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“If we can reduce demand and into our call centres via the use of voice recognition or voice-enabled technology and actually give the community the information they need without them needing to ring in to police, then that’s massive,” Flanagan said.

Yet, there are, of course, privacy concerns, especially when crime reports can be highly sensitive in nature. It seems somewhat inappropriate to encourage victims of crime to report all kinds of criminal activity using Alexa. Secondly, the crime reports would not be stored in the police systems. All recordings will be the property of Amazon, as they’re streamed, stored and processed remotely. 

Still, the benefits of internet of things (IOT) devices in crime reporting can’t be ignored. Currently, we’re seeing IOT devices being used in real-world investigations. Earlier in 2017, prosecutors used data from an Amazon Echo as evidence in a murder investigation in Arkansas.

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