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Cop an eyeful of that: Moto bungs 5-megapixel cam into plod radio

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Motorola Solutions' MTP6750 is a police radio with a difference: it sports a five-megapixel camera that not only takes pictures but autographs them to stop bent or bungling coppers tampering with the evidence.

The handset isn't just for the plod: it uses the TETRA telephony standard common to the police, security and emergency services, so can be deployed by any of them wanting to take photographs. The time, location, cell site and user ID are stored with the photograph, and this data is then digitally fingerprinted. If the image or metadata changes after that then it will not match the fingerprint.

Motorola - the non-Google-owned biz that makes money - reckons the process will reduce court costs enough to cover the cost of the kit within a year.

Handset photo

The MTP6750

TETRA is separate from the civilian mobile networks, and while it's similar in design it's much more robust to the point where a handset can continue to operate in peer-to-peer mode even if the entire communications infrastructure disappears. The UK has the world's biggest TETRA network - with 4,000 base stations and 300,000 users - but the technology is deployed globally, and Motorola is hoping to sell its new handset across markets.

Such radios necessarily lag behind consumer kit in terms of features: they are expected to keep on working for at least five years and survive submersion in water, not to mention daily abuse from users and those they encounter. The usual mode of operation is push-to-talk, with a copper pressing the side button to speak to the station; something they can do without looking down, but to photograph a crime scene they'll have to unclip the device and point it at the bloodstains.

TETRA is really bad at data: pictures can be pushed out to handsets at a lamentable 2KB/s. The MTP6750 supports the as-yet-unimplemented TEDS standard, which permits the use of a broader radio channel if one can be found. But the idea here isn't to send photographs back to the office over the air, but to upload them from a device cradle at the end of a shift.

Indeed, the digital fingerprints can't be transmitted over the air even though the photographs can be sent at a push. The fingerprints are signed by the handset before being uploaded, via the cradle, to the central server, which tests that neither the photograph nor the metadata has been tampered with. Subsequently, the fingerprint needs to be securely stored by the central server, but if it really matters then it can be verified using the data on the original handset. Motorola hopes that will be enough for any court.

Assuming it is then the savings will roll in, we're told. Perps accused of domestic abuse, for example, are more than twice as likely to plead guilty if there's photographic evidence of their crimes to back up the case - and it encourages the abused to testify. This reduces the length of proceedings and therefore costs less. Violent thugs get longer in prison, too, as the emotive nature of the photographs influences judge and jury alike.

Add up the reduction in court costs (skipping over the price of extended incarceration) and the system pays for itself within 12 months, Moto reckons, which is important as when asked about cost the electronics maker reiterated the unique nature of the offering rather than just providing the usual statement about "competitive pricing".

Photographic evidence can be vital to land successful prosecutions; allowing officers to take some snaps in the absence of an official photographer seems eminently sensible, especially given how many coppers are already using their own insecure smartphones to gather data which is unlikely to stand up in court. ®

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