During the Hartford Marathon last month, as thousands of runners plodded through 26.2 miles, one child got lost amid the sea of spectators.
But police administrators overseeing the event knew where their officers were in real time, and dispatched the closest one. The child was returned not long after.
It’s easy to react that quickly when each officer has a beacon in his or her pocket. And that’s just what Globekeeper, the latest piece ot technology that Hartford police are testing, offers.
“For the marathon, layer of redundancy over what we already do,” Lt. Brandon O’Brien, the commander of Vice, Intelligence and Narcotics units said. “It could be a huge assist to us as far as our day-to-day operations, a complimentary piece for keeping track of information and everyone involved. We’re testing it and evaluating it to see if it’s something we want to buy.”
Globekeeper is the brainchild of Dan Peleg, a former intelligence officer for the Israeli Defense Forces. Its primary function is to link officers on an encrypted network through smartphones, one that allows them to share their location, as well as pictures and video from the field.
And tech support for the Hartford officers testing it won’t be far away: Peleg is bringing his company to Upward Hartford, a downtown think tank for startups that chose him as one of 10 international companies to incubate.
“One of the pinpoints I saw when we came here was that there were no startups in town,” Shana Schlossberg, Upward Hartford’s founder, said. “If I wanted to build an ecosystem, I had to start from the top.”
She solicited the international companies, offering them $150,000 loans for a two-year commitment to Hartford. But there’s a “high bar” of criteria that each applicant must clear, including at least $250,000 in revenue each year.
“Dan is such an inspiration to young entrepreneurs,” Schlossberg said. “He shows them that you don’t have to be old and have money to do this work. And the technology he has can truly help Hartford and its residents.”
Peleg perfected his product through his military experience, when personnel were far afield and hard to raise on radio. In the private sector, he’s used the technology to help nonprofits working to dismantle human trafficking rings in far-flung parts of the world.
And, in the wake of attacks like the one at the 2013 Boston Marathon, the technology has become useful for quickly spotting discarded or suspicious items amid large crowds.
But he realized that the application is useful for all law enforcement, even in a city of 125,000 people.
“It has many different applications, from patrol officers to larger events like the marathon,” Peleg said. “Basically, any scenario where the police need to resolve an issue fast, this can cut down on response time.”
For smaller departments like Hartford, one of the biggest boons is that it links into existing equipment: The application is rooted in smartphones and tablets, Peleg said. And it can incorporate the city’s existing security cameras.
“Hartford has one of the most advanced command centers we’ve seen, but they don’t have video that’s mobile,” Peleg said, referring to the Capital City Crime Center on Jennings Road. “This puts cameras literally in the hands of officers, which they can feed back to the center.”
Peleg’s software uses “military grade encryption” to keep the communication safe. Everything is stored on a server, preserving it, for example, if needed for a longer investigation.
Police Chief James Rovella expressed interest in the product and asked for a demonstration. The timing was perfect: Peleg agreed to show the chief how Globekeeper works during the marathon.
The reaction was positive, so much that Hartford has agreed to continue to use the software on a trial basis, according to O’Brien.
“Part of that process is being respectful of funding sources, of using public money or grant money to pay for contracts,” he said. “But we’re cautious; we’re not going to jump in only to find out later that it’s not appropriate for us.”
O’Brien said that’s standard procedure for any technology platform pitched to the city’s police force. And it’s something they go through several times a year.
Peleg said he’s offering his software to the city for free for the first two or three months. He declined to say how much it would cost the city after that grace period, if the police decide to use the software permanently. When pressed, however, he said that a single license is “cheaper” than a comparable police radio — usually around $2,500 to $3,000.
Hartford has a history of embracing technology to aid its law enforcement efforts. In 2011, the city purchased ShotSpotter, a system that uses acoustics to triangulate the location of gunfire. Last year, the department expanded the system to cover every residence in the city.
Also last year, the department invested in BriefCam, a video surveillance system that allows officers to compress hours of footage from city cameras into minutes-long clips. The system — which, coincidentally, was also developed by an Israeli company — was used to great success in September, when it helped locate a suspected child predator.