Google Glass To Arm Police, Firefighters

Mutualink says teaming Google's Internet-connected eyewear with its network will help emergency personnel improve public safety.
Google Nexus 7, Chromecast: Visual Tour
Google Nexus 7, Chromecast: Visual Tour
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Google's latest cautious moves on behalf of its computerized eyewear hasn't matched the spectacle seen at the debut of Glass last year, as skydivers wearing the device descended on the company's 2012 developer conference.

The company's slow rollout to a few thousand developers has only just expanded, with early adopters now able to invite their friends to pay $1,500 for the opportunity to try a device that, in some form or another, will expand the way people think about mediated interaction and mobile technology.

Confronted by public skepticism about the utility and social acceptability of Glass, Google has pushed back with stories about how Glass can enable the disabled, capture live events and perform generally useful functions without further diminishing our rapidly dwindling privacy.

[ Can Google quell Glass privacy concerns? Read Google Glass Gets Smeared: 11 Improvement Ideas. ]

Although Google, because of its history and nature, has to tread carefully around the privacy implications of Glass, government agencies can be a bit more cavalier. In the public sector, the tendency is to prioritize public safety over privacy.

So it is that the debut of Mutualink's integration of Google Glass with the company's multimedia interoperability platform for first responders and associated agencies focuses on the benefit of sharing live video among police officers or firefighters -- rather than the violation of social norms, and possibly of privacy laws, arising from non-consensual video and audio recording.

Mutualink says it plans to demonstrate how real-time two-way video and audio from Google Glass can be integrated into its public safety communications system at the 2013 Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference, which runs through Wednesday in Anaheim, Calif.

The goal, said Michael Wengrovitz, VP of innovation at Mutualink, in a statement, is to "enable anywhere, anytime communications and information sharing" using a hands-free device, while avoiding technical incompatibilities between different systems.

Mutualink sees potential in Glass as a way for firefighters to review building plans before entering a burning structure, for EMTs to view medical records while triaging patients at accident scenes, and as a way for police to keep an eye on video feeds from security cameras in real time during crisis response scenarios.

"Mutualink believes that police and firefighters will be using the Google Glass capability soon," said Joe Mazzarella, SVP and chief legal counsel of Mutualink, in a statement. That could mean next year: A company spokeswoman in an email said Mutualink will be providing its technology to partners in Brazil in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Noting that first responders often wrestle with technology that gets in the way as it tries to help, Mazzarella praised Glass as an attempt to overcome the "usability and user interface design challenges with personalized, wearable computers."

Mutalink's position on privacy is that "Google Glass is no different from the many public and private surveillance systems already deployed that capture public activity."

The company insists its multimedia interoperability platform accommodates privacy through individual and agency access controls. There is no centralized database of media assets, the company says. Rather, media assets are distributed and under the logical and physical control of the originating agency.

However, promises of data compartmentalization seem less credible in the wake of revelations about data sharing between the NSA and DEA.

From a privacy perspective, Glass might be no different than any other surveillance system. But outside of government circles, that's a hard sell.

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