Situation in hand

A UK police force is to test advanced location technology that would allow control rooms to track the movements of individual officers to within 1m.

A UK police force is to test advanced location technology that would allow control rooms to track the movements of individual officers to within 1m.

The Sussex force hopes the use of handsets incorporating Assisted GPS technology will allow officers to respond more effectively in emergencies, when precise data on the location of personnel is often unavailable.

Expected to be ready for full service by mid-2006, the system would also allow police at the scene of an incident to receive detailed, real-time information on their colleagues’ whereabouts.

Sussex Police Authority is a partner in an EU-funded project called Liaison which is developing systems that use Assisted GPS for a range of applications and numbers Alcatel and France Telecom among its members.

Existing technology for monitoring police and co-ordinating a response relies heavily on vehiclebased systems. Police cars have a GPS unit on-board but when officers leave the vehicle, their controllers have little detailed information on where they are in relation to the crime scene.

Chief superintendent Jim Hammond of the Association of Chief Police Officers said: ‘It is all very well tracking vehicles but we really need effective technology for tracking officers once they have left their cars.’

Officers will be equipped with an Assisted GPS handset that provides data on their own location and information about their colleagues’ movements. The device will also give officers a 3D view of the scene, with changes in location tracked in real time.

A problem with basic GPS location technology is that its accuracy ranges from 5m to 20m, allowing a large margin for error, particularly when police officers are moving from street to street on foot. Assisted GPS uses an external server to communicate wirelessly with the GPS handset and perform calculations from the raw data to refine range measurements. This increases accuracy to 1–2m, it is claimed. Use of the EU Galileo satellite location network alongside GPS could improve this even further.

The system would also be able to automatically calculate a safe cordon distance in an emergency, which police will be able to view on their handsets. Controllers will be able to specify rendezvous points and recommended evacuation routes that would be updated instantly. Officers in cars could also be given information on the quickest route to the scene, taking traffic conditions into account.

An important application for the satellite system will be helping police evacuate areas of housing quickly and efficiently. After a house has been evacuated officers can mark it as ‘clear’ on their handsets and this will automatically be transmitted back to the control centre. Controllers can then colourcode the house as green and send this information to all officers’ handsets.


Security applications that use global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) are developing quickly and the imminent launch of Europe’s Galileo satellites will offer even greater coverage and reliability.

A conference organised by Pinpoint Faraday, which promotes the use of GNSS in the UK, recently heard how innovations in areas ranging from offender monitoring to road safety are using satellite based location systems. Data security is high on the agenda.

UK company Nottingham Scientific is developing a system for the European Space Agency that uses GPS receivers to either permit or refuse access to digital data, dependent on the location of an individual. The system, called Eye Sky Eye, combines encryption technology with GPS receivers that can restrict transmission to specific locations.

Television companies, for example, could confine broadcasts to geographical areas where a licence has been bought. The technology could also be applied in the workplace, allowing companies to restrict confidential business files to specific office locations outside of which data could not be altered or even viewed.

In the criminal justice field, accuracy is a major issue if data collected via GNSS is to be used as evidence in court. The use of geo-fencing technology, plus the increased accuracy that Galileo will offer, should help police to make more effective use of GNSS to enforce restrictions imposed on people tagged by the courts.

Advanced satellite-based systems allow offenders to be monitored in real time on a map, while geo-fencing alerts the offender and the control centre if they enter unauthorised territory.

Research is also being carried out into using GNSS to increase traffic safety. Researchers are developing technologies that will allow the transmission of location-specific data between a vehicle and its surroundings. One application, called Blue Wave, plots a route through busy traffic for an ambulance or fire engine. Data is transmitted to vehicles ahead of the ambulance, letting them know the best place to pull over to allow it to pass.