Using artificial intelligence to fight crime and terror

Artificial intelligence (AI) is billed as the next big thing for ensuring cities are safe against crime and terrorists as nations embark on smart city projects to improve urban living.

As seen with predictive policing in the Hollywood movie Minority Report starring Tom Cruise, law enforcement units can use AI to predict where crimes usually happen after collecting and analysing data from sensors and cameras, and step up patrols. Although AI technologies today are not as developed as the technologies featured in the movie in predicting an actual crime, experts at a conference yesterday said automation does away with the tedious work of manually scanning security cameras.

"AI can predict the probability of crime in a location by detecting anomalies and faces," said Dr Simon See, director of US-based computing firm Nvidia's AI Technology Centre in Singapore.

"Predicting (actual) crime is not possible yet," Dr See said at a conference on smart cities and innovation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, organised by French newspaper Le Monde together with The Straits Times and Business France.

However, law enforcement will not be the only user of AI. "Hackers will also use AI to develop malware that morphs and changes along the way - that is the scary part," said Dr See.

That is why the Singapore Government is stepping up investments in AI to better counter cyber threats.

As much as $528 million, or 22 per cent, of Singapore's tech budget this year has been set aside for security - the most ever. A huge part of the security budget will go to the first Government Security Operation Centre, which features AI and the analytics smarts to detect cyber threats.

But crowdsourcing intelligence from real people must not be ignored either, said Mr Muhammad Faizal Abdul Rahman, a research fellow at Nanyang Technological University's Homeland Defence Programme at the Centre of Excellence for National Security.

"The other 'sensors' are people," he said, citing the SGSecure mobile app that enables citizens to be more involved. Launched last September, it lets people report suspicious incidents or objects.

Irene Tham

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'Using artificial intelligence to fight crime and terror'. Print Edition | Subscribe