In the 2002 film (now TV show), Minority Report, police were able to learn of murders before they happened and arrest the would-be killer. While this movie is Steven Spielberg’s screen adaptation of the 1956 science-fiction (emphasize “fiction”) short story written by author Philip K. Dick, its premise may become very real. Japan-based electronics and telecommunications conglomerate Hitachi is the company trying to make crime prediction a real tool for law enforcement. They are looking to add their Hitachi Visualization Predictive Crime Analytics (PCA) computer system to its existing list of products ranging from televisions to business and medical equipment to their popular line of vibrators.
There are already crime prediction tools out in the world, but they are flawed due to their basis on human based biases. The Hitachi PCA will utilize “machine learning” over “preconceived variables and factors.” According to researcher Mark Jules, co-founder of crime-monitoring technology company Avrio and Pantascene (acquired by Hitachi last year), most crime-prediction models built by police investigators are rooted in their own personal experiences. On the other hand, the Hitachi PCA will aggregate thousands of factors that can bring about crime, such as weather patterns, social media activity, public transportation movements, gunshot sensors and much more. The social media component is especially effective according to Digital Trends:
One unique aspect of Jules and Lipscomb’s PCA deals with how it ingests social media activity. For starters, the duo claims social media plays a significant part in predicting crime, ostensibly responsible for improving predictions by an astounding 15 percent. Armed with the ability to decipher colloquial text and speech, keywords, and slang native to a specific area or gang don’t go unnoticed. The PCA makes use of a latent Dirichlet allocation which sorts tweets based on their geography, then chronicles specific language to get an idea of what’s going on. Jules and Lipscomb hope this method allows law enforcement to identify when something is uncommon, enabling them to act accordingly.
Of course, there are kinks to work out, like how not to profile innocent people and ensuring accuracy. However, developers have faith in the system’s capabilities already. To test the Hitachi PCA in the real world, Hitachi plans to release the system to a number of undisclosed law enforcement outfits.