IMAGINE walking into a police station to submit a document for certification and, instead of an officer, you are greeted by a robot which assists you in completing the task.
That could be the future of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) if the potential of humanoid robots is utilised in that manner.
One such robot is Liz, a machine with limitless possibilities which has been touted as another bit of technology that could help to further transform how services are delivered by the JCF.
That is the hope of local technology company Innovate10x which donated the robot to the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) two years ago for use by students studying computer science. They have since then been programming, testing and tweaking Liz to see how she can be applied to various situations.
Liz was on display at the JCF’s recently staged inaugural technology expo which presented to the public impressive examples of how the JCF’s quality management systems and technology are revolutionising policing in Jamaica.
Innovate10x, with the support of UTech, sought to use the expo to pitch the idea of Liz carrying out mundane administrative tasks which normally tie up police officers at their desks.
Recent UTech graduate Carlisha Nicholson, who completed a Bachelor’s degree in computing with a major in computer science, was one of the students who got an opportunity to work with Liz. She told the Jamaica Observer that it was during a brainstorming session at the school’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Intelligence System Laboratory that the idea of incorporating Liz into the operations of the police came up.
“Based on the knowledge that I have, because my father is a retired police officer, I know for a fact that every station has some police officers on duty collecting death certificates, death reports, accident reports, party permits and so on. So I said, ‘Well instead of having someone there at the desk sitting all day waiting on somebody to submit a death report or certificate, we could probably have an individual come in…[submit the document to Liz] and have her tabulate that information and then send it to some sort of device that the officers would have.’ So, at the end of the day you could send it in and get it certified or authorised without even having to have one man in the office,” she reasoned.
Nicholson said there are a number of things that trained police officers are stuck doing, like desk jobs and office duty, so there are several areas in the police force in which Liz could be useful as it relates to customer service as well as on the road, noting that she has facial recognition and a number of sensors as well.
She described Liz as an open source Cruzr brand robot that can be used as a receptionist, tour guide, for patient care, “whatever possible, as long as you are able to programme her to do it, she can do”.
The Cruzr robot is a new business robot offering multiple customer service-oriented features and a wide range of functionalities useful in various industries such as retail, banking, tourism, hospitality, transportation, and health care. These include such capabilities as fingerprint and facial recognition biometrics and radio frequency identification (RFID) systems.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Leo Brown, who is in charge of the JCF’s Technology Branch, confirmed that Innovate10x broached the idea with him sometime ago regarding the use of robots for certain administrative functions within the JCF.
He said they spoke about the possibility of programming the robot to provide customers who visit a police station with information about some of the services being offered, including police certificates, accident reports and loss documents.
“Also, a robot could complement or integrate with kiosks which we are planning to implement in some stations/facilities. The customers could interact with these capabilities to access the basic services mentioned earlier,” he said.
ACP Brown said that with the advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, using the robots for more complex administrative functions is an area he plans to explore with developers and other persons in the field of robotics.
“It’s part of the vision of what a modern, smart police station would look like with these and other capabilities geared towards enhancing the customers’ experience and quality service,” he said.
UTech computer science student and technician at Innovate10x, Kemar Knight told the Observer that when the company bought Liz he was the first person to interact with her and considers himself to be the grandfather of the software programme.
Pointing to Liz’s myriad apabilities, Knight noted that the robot can be tied into smart home functionalities such as turning light switches on and off, noting that “it all depends on what you want to do…it is very free to programme as you like”.
He noted that while Liz was at the company’s offices before she was donated to UTech she was acting as the receptionist to meet and greet persons whom she identified by face. “So if you were there for the first time then she would just give you a regular greeting, but if you wanted you could give her permission so that she can take a photo of you so the next time you come there, she can identify you by your face,” he said.
Knight noted that the technology was showcased in Jamaica some years ago when Liz met Prime Minister Andrew Holness and was able to identify him successfully.
“She has been here in the country for roughly about three years or so but she hasn’t been out there [in the public as yet]; she has been behind closed doors where persons have been interacting and engaging with her to learn to programme and so on,” he said.
He said that through technology such as Liz the company, which is the brainchild of former chief information officer at Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB) Sheldon Powe, is striving for innovation “where we are trying to be the nexus of the innovation centre inside of this Caribbean region”, noting that its line of services include research and development, consulting, and assisting with building out innovative ideas to bring to market.
In the meantime Nicholson pointed out that the Cruzr robots were “very big” in the customer service industry in China, and are often used in hospitals for patient care.
“So there are specific hospitals that will only use these types of robots for COVID patients.They would not physically go to them so the robot would carry them their food, the robot would ask them if they need anything like a towel and so on,” she said
She said that Liz is version one of the Cruzr robot so there are better versions with even greater capabilities.
Nicholson said she enjoyed working with Liz while she was a student at UTech, where she was tasked with trying to figure out or solve real world problems through software development. She said her group chose as their major project to programme Liz for use in health-care triage because she was issued during the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“The issue that we identified was that our health-care professionals, a majority of them were contracting COVID from their patients that they were treating. We decided what if we could use the robot to take the patients’ vitals and information first and, based on the symptoms of COVID, it would send that data to the doctors and say, ‘Hey, this patient is at a high risk for COVID, you should probably get them tested’ — that is before the nurse or the doctor even comes in contact with the patient…We created this application…we did it on a smaller scale — because, of course, it’s for school — at the UTech Medical Centre to take the vitals of students and other COVID-related data. This was then sent to the nurse,” she said.
She said that another application was done by another student for assignment submission wherein, instead of “having to run around and find the teacher” in case the teacher stepped out for a minute, the student would go to Liz to submit an assignment and Liz would record the time it is submitted and the date. If the student wanted to contact the teacher, Liz would call the teacher and inform her that the assignment was submitted.