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Smarter Public Safety

By 2050, nearly three quarters of our planet will live in cities. Public safety will be a key factor in determining which city they choose.

Although the modern instruments of public safety are extremely effective at producing and interpreting data, each does so in a disparate and unconnected manner. What if all of these information streams associated interacted with each other to derive new insights before they become larger issues? This is a question IBM is answering with Smarter Public Safety.


Smart public safety. Watch the video.

Innovation through analytics

Data is everywhere in cities, providing information about everything from traffic patterns to security breeches. Public systems collect this disparate, voluminous data that is collected by various public systems — and smarter public safety agencies use analytics to derive new insights and uncover trends before they become systemic issues. Here's how some cities are taking the proactive approach.

A series of conversations for a smarter planet


NYPD Big Blue
It's often a mundane detail that ultimately solves a crime. A nickname. A parking ticket. A past address. And it is mundane details — billions of them — that populate the data warehouse of the New York City Real Time Crime Center (PDF, 132KB) (RTCC).

New York is now the safest large city in the United States, one example of how cities are getting smarter about public safety.

IBM worked with the New York Police Department (NYPD) to create a data warehouse that could bring together information buried in filing cabinets, on index cards and in handwritten notes. Today, the RTCC stitches together more than 120 million New York City criminal complaints, 31 million national crime records and 33 billion public records...just to name a few.

Sophisticated analytics and search capabilities make connections across multiple databases. Information can be visualised in seconds on a two-story video wall: a photo of a suspect appears with details — tattoos, past offenses, addresses with maps — quickly filling in. Critical data can be relayed instantly to officers at the scene. What once took days now takes minutes.

Chart: New York City crime: Percent change from 2001 to 2010. NYPD CompStar Unit, February 13, 2011


Memphis: getting the jump on crime
With increasing crime rates, the City of Memphis Police Department (MPD) (US) needed to improve response time. But having to search through an array of spreadsheets and paper files added hours to officers' searches for vital information. So the city ambitiously resolved to implement innovative new practices to predict, track and respond promptly to crimes, while cost-effectively upgrading its resources and increasing the overall effectiveness of the department.

Since incorporating IBM SPSS predictive analytics software, the MPD has reduced serious crime by more than 30 percent and expanded its effective coverage area without a proportional increase in staff. The software analyses historical and current data quickly and updates it continually to evaluate incident patterns and identify the most likely crime hot spots. With its improved analytical and statistical capabilities and increased data visibility, the MPD can identify, target and respond to crime more effectively.



Chart: Top 10 safest cities in 2010. 1 Vienna, 2 Zurich, 3 Geneva, 4 Vancouver, 4 Auckland, 6 Dusseldof, 7 Frankfurt, 7 Munich, 9 Bern, 10 Sydney.

Keeping our cities safe is a critical factor in their economic viability

Public officials are turning to the same technology advances that businesses have been using — autonomic sense-and-respond capabilities, analytics, visualisation and computational modeling — to make our public safety systems smarter, and drive a fundamental shift from responding to events to anticipating and preventing them, when possible.

Madrid, Spain: lessons from a terrorist attack
Created in the aftermath of the terrorist train bombings on March 11, 2004, the Integrated Security and Emergency Centre (PDF, 506KB) for Madrid coordinates the resources and efforts of the police, fire, highway, hotline and ambulance units, amoung others. A 27-meters wall of screens displays traffic video from surveillance cameras, maps with GPS data, and the status and location of personnel.

Colombia: united front against organised crime
The Financial Information Analysis Unit of the Colombian government worked with IBM to develop a tool that could systematically gather information across different agencies, and analyse it to identify potentially related crimes. The SOA-based system links 16 government entities into a single, united front to fight organised crime.