Police gather vehicle and driver information in two problematic ways. They can either enter license plate numbers into a computer, which requires them to be inside their cruisers and distracts them while driving, or they can call a human dispatcher and wait for clear radio bands. Warren Harrison, head of Portland State University’s computer science department, learned this while a reserve deputy at the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. Using a speech recognition program and commercial headsets, Harrison has created a hands-free system that interfaces with the police cruiser’s computer. Using a basic set of commands, the user asks for information and receives a reply via an automated voice up to 100 meters away from the computer. Harrison and graduate student Diane Jones are currently testing the software at PSU. Harrison intends to ask the National Institute of Justice for additional funding at the end of the year.
“Instead of 100 meters, maybe we can start talking about kilometers,” he says. This would allow bicycle police and security officers to use computer dispatch systems placed throughout metropolitan areas.