Let’s put a mobile phone in the pockets of every police officer

Today, identity verification is accessible to police more than ever before.

Verifying of documents and identities of citizens on the roads or in the streets has always been relatively difficult and time consuming for the police. Even though over time, security and law enforcement authorities in many countries have built several national and international databases of wanted persons or various other records (such as lost documents), for in-field police officers in most countries it is difficult to access this data.

To check a person, police officers usually have to contact the dispatch centre. They report the name along with some other identifying data and then they wait for the dispatcher to screen multiple, often isolated, databases. Sometimes, dispatchers are busy with more important tasks other than routine checks, other times they do not hear clearly due to communication problems or, for various other reasons, they do not provide complete information to the police officer.

Solution number one

That is why at the beginning of the decade some countries naturally started fitting their police vehicles with modern technologies to make the police work more effective. New integrated systems included special scanners able to read smart cards with contact chips, but also so-called MRZ (Machine Readable Zone) used on ID cards, or RFID chips used in passports.

In such a vehicle, all police officers have to do is to hold the document against the scanner and the system would automatically search all relevant connected databases for any entries. This way the patrol can immediately see whether or not the person is wanted, but also other information such as the history of their past traffic offenses.

Fast accessibility and comprehensiveness of the obtained information proved to be a great added value for the police. However, the systems integrated into vehicles are quite sophisticated – in addition to scanners, they also include cameras and Automatic License Number Plate Recognition (ALPR) technologies. They cannot be simply used as handheld devices and that is why the motorised patrols do not have much flexibility in identity checks, let alone foot patrols who cannot use the document checks at all.

Light version

Due to the above, several countries wanted to introduce a “lightweight” mobile version of such a system. Paving the road to such solutions are mobile phones – conventional or fitted with various readers. Even though they do not provide such convenience as the vehicle-mounted systems, the lower mid-range smartphones of today have good enough cameras and high enough processing power for the police to access important databases from virtually anywhere.

While the cost of deploying a mobile identity verification system is significantly decreasing, its usability is ever increasing, because literally, every police officer may now carry a mobile phone in their pocket.

Multiple input options

MOSY, a global pioneer in deploying solutions for streamlining the work of rescue services and security agencies, provides multiple options for data entry through mobile phones.

The simplest, but also the least convenient is the manual entry (typing) of the identification data of the person to be checked into the smartphone. The second, more sophisticated and more convenient method, which is presently the most sought after solution, is scanning the identity document using the phone’s camera. A police officer simply holds the document in front of the mobile phone and automatically retrieves information from all connected databases – similar to QR code reading.

The third method offered as part of the MOSY’s portfolio is to read the document by an external reader that can be connected to a conventional smartphone. The so-called Read*Box of approximately the size of two cigarette packs can read smart cards with contact chips, RFID chips or MR zones.

Of course, implementation of the in-field identity verification system also creates prerequisites for biometric-based identification of persons, for example using fingerprints. With today’s technology, there is no problem implementing such a solution. However, for the system to be effective, a sufficiently large database of biometric data is required. This is something that presently most countries do not have.