On the ball for crime prevention

Police could be issued with ball-shaped cameras that can be thrown into dangerous situations.

Police could be issued with ball-shaped cameras that can be thrown into dangerous situations to assess conditions and save officers from walking into harm.

The Eye Ball, created by Israeli research and development company ODF Optronics, consists of a remote-controlled camera about the size of a cricket ball that can give users a 360º view of its surroundings.

The company said its distributors have demonstrated the Eye Ball to law enforcement agencies in the UK, France, Turkey, Italy and Russia. Over 20 US police forces are currently testing the device.

‘In the next few months we will introduce the products throughout Europe and it can be expected that by the end of the year we will start getting orders from European agencies,’ said Shimon Greenberg, ODF Optronics’ vice-president of marketing .

The Eye Ball can be thrown into potentially dangerous situations or dark and inaccessible areas such as loft spaces, where it can see using near infra-red night vision. It is robust enough to be dropped from a two-storey building or thrown on to a concrete floor without affecting its performance.

Once deployed it delivers real-time audio and video data to officers via a wireless link. Police can then assess a situation and decide whether it is safe to enter. Other potential users include fire-fighters and search-and-rescue teams. The control unit which receives the data is the size of a large PDA.

The camera can be manipulated remotely in order to view an area from numerous angles. While the base remains static, the camera is built into the top of the device and can be rotated.

The Eye Ball unit has a three-hour battery life, can rotate at four rpms, and can capture 55º horizontal and 41º vertical views. Evidence can be saved on tape or DVD using the video-out port on the remote control unit. Each Eye Ball will cost around £750, making it much cheaper than deploying robots that are currently being tested by some police forces.