Deep AR Law Enforcement Ecosystem

Dissemination & Communication


Improving situational awareness with DARLENE augmented reality tools to combat crime and terrorism

By Iosu Alonso, Intendant of Ertzaintza. Departamento de Seguridad del Gobierno Vasco

DARLENE will develop innovative augmented reality (AR) tools which will improve situational awareness of when responding to criminal and terrorist incidents. Situational awareness (SA) is often critical to the survival and safety of officers and civilians in crime-fighting situations, and AR technology can greatly improve this vital skill by overlaying useful information directly on top of the real world. In this article, DARLENE project partner Ertzaintza (Basque Police) discusses the importance and challenges of situational awareness for law enforcement agencies and its role in the DARLENE solution.

From the point of view of the Ertzaintza (Basque Police), and as one of the pillars of the Public Security System of the Basque Country, we share with the rest of the agencies that may be mobilised, according to the action plans established for each type situation, (crime, terrorism, accident, catastrophe, calamity etc.), the need to have the necessary resources and the best possible capabilities. All this in order to protect people and their fundamental rights.

DARLENE offers us a series of tools that facilitate and increase our capabilities using different technologies with special attention to improving the situational awareness of the intervening parties, both at a strategic, tactical and operational level.

What does awareness of the situation mean for law enforcement?

For us, situational awareness is a vital skill, often critical to the survival and safety of officers and community members alike. As such, LEAs are required to continually work to cultivate and enhance an situational awareness mindset. By integrating this way of thinking with advanced technology, police officers can gain considerable advantages when faced with dangerous situations. [1]

When an officer lacks the knowledge and training in situational awareness, and makes decisions in a highly unpredictable context, and under a lot of time and stress, the result is probably unfavourable.
Therefore, situational awareness and subsequent selection of the best course of action are critical police skills that inform behavioural outcomes as well as basic motor learning.


How is situational awareness related to decision making when responding to criminal and terrorist incidents? What is the OODA loop?

Any elite athlete, such as a discus thrower, has a precise task to perform in a limited range of controlled conditions. In police work, not even a simple motor skill is standardised or used in isolation. Officers must constantly assess, consider, decide, and update the appropriate or possible actions given the current situation. As such, motor skills cannot be considered without all other aspects of police encounters, including occupationally relevant stress, situational awareness, and complex decision making. [2]

The basics of SA can be described in what’s called the OODA Loop, an acronym for the “Observe, Orient, Decide, Act” cycle [3]. The approach clearly favours agility over brute force when dealing with human adversaries, devising a response based on making better and faster decisions to outmanoeuvre the opponent.

How does DARLENE intend to improve situational awareness?

DARLENE technologies will enable LEAs to steer initiative away from criminals and terrorists by developing a common operational picture for both on-site personnel and their command personnel, based on an aggregation of data collected from various sources. In this sense, machine learning (ML) will lend itself to analysing large volumes of data acquired by multiple sensors in real time, which will allow evaluations to be provided faster and in a much more coordinated way to help LEA decision makers, in order to allow them to overcome the adversary. This can be done by scaling beyond the limits of human ability to process scene information, and even shedding light in areas undetectable by humans (blind spots). Therefore, it will combine cutting-edge technologies with cutting-edge research to provide a means for European LEAs to regain superiority in surveillance scenarios and tactical manoeuvres, by exploiting AR and ML alongside other potentially disruptive technologies (e.g. 5G), to effectively execute OODA circulates during incidents, allowing them to stay one step ahead of terrorists and other potential adversaries, both internal and external to the EU landscape. [4]

In relation to police preventive activities, being able to determine which hot spots are known and which are not known by police officers provides a clearer picture of the accuracy of police perceptions. The fact that (intense) criminal activity is out of the attention of those who are expected to protect citizen safety not only affects the effectiveness of the police, but can also affect the public’s confidence in the police organisation. [5] Improved use of force decision making directly translates into potential lifesaving decisions for police and the civilians they are working with.

How will we build trust in DARLENE technology among LEAs and first aid end users?

The DARLENE consortium foresees the development of a prototype of the DARLENE tutorial kit, which will be used to train staff on high-stress situations and the challenges derived from new technological developments. A two-phase training approach has been devised, in which a series of training workshops and seminars will be organised to first facilitate the training of trainers, followed by the training of external end users. In this sense, DARLENE not only places emphasis on the development of skills in the use of the technological solution, but also on the ability of the apprentices to apply the knowledge acquired, as well as transfer it between them. [6]

The DARLENE consortium will ensure robust ethical and legal compliance during the design and development of the DARLENE AR smart glasses and law enforcement eco-system. The innovative AR glasses will have real-time semantic segmentation to enable LEAs to quickly detect and locate real-world objects and events but will not include facial recognition functionality. An integrated ethical, data protection and social impact assessment of augmented reality tools will ensure compliance with ethics requirements and build public trust for the lawful use of technology when combatting crime and terrorism. 

If you are interested in our project, please contact us. For more information on the project, sign up to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

[1] H2020-CP-2017 ver 1.00 20180525. 1.2. Relation to the work programme. 5p.
[2] Di Nota PM and Huhta J-M (2019) Complex Motor Learning and Police Training: Applied, Cognitive, and Clinical Perspectives. Conclusions. 16p. Front. Psychol. 10:1797. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01797
[3] Olmos, R., et al. (2018). Automatic handgun detection alarm in videos using deep learning. Neurocomputing, 275, 66-72.
[4] H2020-CP-2017 ver 1.00 20180525. 1.2. Relation to the work programme. 5p.
[5] ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf. 2019, 8, 260; doi:10.3390/ijgi8060260. 11p
[6] H2020-CP-2017 ver 1.00 20180525. 1.2. Relation to the work programme. 5p.
Pictures by ERTZAINTZA