Could virtual reality control rooms exist in the future of law enforcement?

At this year’s National Technical Surveillance Professional Development Forum, Bedroq demonstrated a Milestone control room that existed entirely within a virtual reality world. Using camera feeds from our office CCTV system, we were able to build a multi-screen control room setting that gave users all the functionality they are used to, without the requirement for physical control room infrastructure.

Having built and managed the technology behind secure control rooms across the UK, we began to wonder if virtual reality control rooms could realistically be used by surveillance operatives of the future.

Virtual reality for control room training

VR is already being used as part of safety-critical training in several industries. Fortum, the largest power generation company in Finland, is using VR training to prepare its workers for conducting the plant’s critical day-to-day operations, immersing them in simulated workplace environments.

‘In safety-critical environments and process industries, human errors can lead to serious accidents and production losses…Millions of euros are used to build physical simulators where operators can practice different scenarios from small disturbances, such as pipe leakages, to serve accident training.’ – Joakim Bergroth, Fortum

Building a physical control room purely for training purposes is costly and takes longer to conduct training in, as the space is often fully booked. VR is a way of getting around this problem by creating a safe environment in which to create multiple training scenarios.

In the UK, a company called MXTreality build immersive simulations to educate and train staff in what can be dangerous environments. Delegates can be trained in dealing with risky situations without being exposed to danger, until they know what to do in the real world. One of their clients is National Highways, who use the immersive technology to train their staff in potentially dangerous roadside scenarios, making sure they know how to complete tasks safely before taking on the real thing.

VR control rooms for law enforcement

In the video demo we ran at the NTS Professional Development Forum, we showed how a virtual reality headset could be used to access multiple screens showing camera feeds via the Milestone XProtect solution. All the functionality a control room operative uses was available within the virtual reality world, with the ability to select specific feeds to focus on, drag and drop feeds across screens, and zoom into areas of interest. In addition, other screens could be set up to show documents for notetaking, live news feeds, and any other content which can be accessed via a normal computer and internet browser.

In this instance the demo was showing a fictional scenario that has not yet been implemented within the law enforcement sector, but it did start some interesting discussions among attendees as to whether a VR control room could exist in the future. There is a possibility that a VR control room could be used as an extension to existing control rooms, giving operatives the option of accessing camera feeds from the front-line. In situations such as large-scale event policing, having a micro control room closer to the event hub could save time and allow front-line operatives to see a real-time image of the scenario being described to them from the main control room.

Using VR to police live events is probably a long way off, but utilising the technology to aid other areas of law enforcement operations is worth considering sooner rather than later. VR technology is now at a stage where it can usefully enable early evaluations of control room systems, giving teams the opportunity to trial a new setup in a cost-effective way.

If not now, when?

Virtual Reality control rooms could certainly exist in the future of law enforcement. Although using VR for the policing of live operations is probably a long way in the future, the technology is already being used successfully for training personnel in safety-critical environments, and for planning control room layouts before they are built. Virtual reality simulations provide new opportunities for operator training that could become part of standard practice in the very near future.

Bedroq designs, builds and manages the secure resilient networks that support critical police operations.  We are specialists in multi-media surveillance networks, multi-agency control rooms and equipment.

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