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Northamptonshire Police builds 101 chatbot


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Northamptonshire Police is building an automated chatbot to handle responses to the local 101 service that could be picked up by other forces around the country.

Simon Clifford (pictured), director for technology and digital transformation in the force, told UKAuthority’s March of the Bots conference that it is working on the project to deliver an online triage service for non-emergency calls that will work through existing chat apps.

It could align with the National Police Chiefs’ Council initiative to explore the potential of a single online home for the public to access police services. He said it could be a “wrap” around a universal user interface projected to emerge from the national project.

“At Northamptonshire we are developing to deliver at scale something that is comprehensive and built to be employed to all forces if they so wish,” Clifford said. “It is using consumer technology through the mobile phone, and we are currently about to launch a pilot testing the functionality.”

The pilot is due to begin early next month taking in the reporting of low level crime and intelligence. An extended roll out is planned for next year, incorporating workflow integration, automated intelligence management, live video feed integration and the provision of metadata through real time AI.

A third phase – so far with no firm timescale – will extend to police response assisted by machine learning, situational awareness, live intelligence management and public alerting.

Workflow integration

Clifford said the bot should be able to integrate with the systems and workflow of other police forces to make it widely usable.

It is being developed to work through existing chat interfaces such as WhatsApp, Facebook Instant Messenger and Snapchat rather through a dedicated police app. Clifford suggested that most people would not keep one of the latter on their phones.

“If we can interface with people there, we don’t need to maintain those platforms,” he said.  “If the option is to build a policing app or use the apps you have stored on your phone I will go for the latter. There are big multi-million pound companies maintaining those apps.”

He said the bot is being trained with all of the website content from Northants Police and the national 101 content that relates to its online forms.

Translation and recognition

Its functions include a translation service for about 100 languages, a facial recognition service, optical character recognition, image recognition, a data and storage service and natural language recognition.

The natural language feature makes it possible to report crime, ask questions, obtain news from the RSS feed from the region of the force within which the call is made, and can continue to work across the different messaging platforms.

Clifford also emphasised that the bot is initially being developed as a minimum viable product and to be easily accessible through smartphones.

“The paradigm needs to shift to minimum viable product and rapid iteration,” he said. “The old guard don’t recognise this, but we have to challenge this model where you have to identify every benefit.

“We have to move to this space because it is where people are rather than getting them to come to where we are. We need to use a platform that people are ready to use.”

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