In an interaction with Dataquest Ravikumar Sreedharan, Vice President, Application Development and Maintenance (ADM), Unisys India, talks about the increasingly complex needs of law enforcement agencies, the India scenario, and how a framework system like U-LEAF (Unisys’ Law Enforcement Applications Framework)can deliver the right mechanism to fight new age crimes.
How is the threat landscape for law enforcement agencies changing in the new technology era?
Cyber attacks are a painful reality for organizations today. And businesses and governments are not sitting still. They are weaving security to all aspects of their operations. In the last 5-10 years, the consumerization of IT and the concept of social computing have led to a state where enterprises have become borderless. So we have to re-secure the new wave of mobile devices, users and applications resulting from this consumerization trend. In earlier times we used to have physical security and now we have physical plus cyber security. So that’s the real time visibility which we have to provide, across all aspects.
What was the approach and objective in building a framework system for the law enforcement agencies? How different and unique were the challenges?
There were few challenges we were trying to address. In today’s world, crimes have really become very complicated. Traditional crimes have given way to what we call as the new age crimes. It could be cyber crimes, it could be internet-enabled terrorism, etc. The rigour of investigation and the threat landscape are actually very different. That is one challenge. Other thing is government agencies and law enforcement agencies worldwide are under lot of pressure to do more with less. There are severe constraints around budgets and resourcing etc. and that is something which we wanted to address. For instance, from what we heard the police forces of England and Wales, are anticipating a loss of close to 34000 officers in 2015. Likewise, Canada is cutting their public safety services by almost nine percent. So that’s the kind of pressure governments are under in the area of public safety.
These were couple of important things which we kept in mind in building our security portfolio. Within the security portfolio at Unisys we have got three kinds of security solutions. One is people identity solutions which is essentially solutions built around identifying, verifying, profiling citizens be it travellers, passengers, or employees in a company for both physical environment as well as digital environment. Then we have something called Cyber Security. Those solutions are around building infrastructure that kind of gives you visibility across all aspects of IT operations, which would include your servers, networks, endpoints. That’s the concept of cyber security. The third area is industry focused security solutions. For example, banking industry requires a special kind of security solution. The other important industry we serve is law enforcement. We have got a domain called justice and public safety and a portfolio built around it. It focuses on collaboration across the terminal industry networks and responding faster to emergencies. U-LEAF is actually part of the justice and public safety domain.
What are the challenges specifically for Indian law enforcement agencies?
If you look at the recent trends even in India, the kind of incidents that are taking place and the response being generated from the community, there is a lot of awareness among citizens now and the expectations from law enforcement agencies to solve crimes quicker is also very high. The way in which most of these agencies are set up, even in India, is such that they are all operating in silos. That’s the way they are traditionally set up. The challenge is to provide an interoperability or visibility across disparate agencies. So that’s the other challenge the industry has been facing. A very important thing we have seen in the last few years is that the volume and complexity of data that is relevant to any investigations is growing exponentially. The kind of data includes smses, webchats, biometric information, twitter and facebook updates, number of photographs being uploaded, all that is constantly growing. Also around 80% of this is unstructured data. So there has to be a mechanism to make meaningful information out of all this data.
There is need for a better approach to be taken by the law enforcement agencies. They need to harness the ability to combine a range of investigative tools, as it’s not just about one tool. They have to really use a range of investigative tools not only to analyze complex information but also to find ways of preventing crimes. Every time a crime happens, the question being asked is why you did not proactively address that.
How does U-LEAF work towards resolving these challenges? Can you site some examples?
When we found a solution, we talked about the real needs of the industry. We said U-LEAF as a framework should have few important characteristics. One is that, we should be able to provide visibility into disparate investigations, we should be able to foster increased collaboration between your command centers, analysts, officers and people who investigate crime on the ground. That’s one important feature we built. The other thing we talked about is there has to be accurate information on the go. So we need to incorporate a mobile feature by which accurate information can be provided to frontline officers in the most convenient manner. We built something called social media analytics. If we look at some of the recent criminal incidents in India, the question is whether we have been able to identify hidden trends and recurring patterns of behaviour. We knew that in some cases, criminals were actively engaged on social media forums. The question is if we had all this data we would be able to identify hidden trends and proactively address crimes and issues that sometimes human minds may not be able to decipher, so we need tools to do that. These are some of the important features incorporated in U-LEAF.
What has been the response in the Indian market?
We have not yet sold U-lEAF in India. But we have been actively engaged with some of the police forces to help them come with the right solution. The advantage is that we have been able to leverage our vast experience in public safety domain. We have got 45 years of experience in public safety. We have got police officers joining our company as the solution guys. So 80% of our team is actually ex police officers.
If you are able to identify hidden trends or recurring patterns of behaviour of person or people, that will be of great help to the police forces. There is no platform for police forces to talk across investigative agencies, at the same time there is also need to protect sensitive data. There is also at times fear in the police forces to share sensitive information, because they are worried that sensitive information might be leaked. So how do you make sure that you do the right thing? For that you need a platform, the right tools and the right intelligence.
There is an element of application shelf life, so if we look at all the systems being used in our country, I think they have achieved their shelf life. Every application of these kinds has a shelf life of about 10 years beyond that they need to be modernized. That’s something police forces need to focus on and that’s where companies like us can really help. If we look at Western countries, they constantly modernize their systems and add features. We are relatively slow in adopting new technologies. The good thing is that there is lot of positive feedback to solutions which companies like us provide. So I think we are moving in the right direction but the pace is quite slow.