UNL spinoff deploys mobile software nationwide

jbrehm2, March 8, 2012 | View original publication

UNL spinoff deploys mobile software nationwide

Starting in April, 10,000 police departments will have access to a new mobile software tool for tracking crime in their communities, thanks to technology developed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Red Brain Law Enforcement Services LLC, a new university spinoff, will release CrimeView NEARme to allow police officers to access location-based crime data.

Over the last six months, 75 Lincoln police officers piloted the app and found it to be what Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady called, “a groundbreaking new technology for police officers. There’s nothing else like it available.” 

Realizing NEARme’s commercial potential, the development team created Red Brain Law Enforcement Services to further develop and market the software. They worked with NUtech Ventures, the nonprofit responsible for building partnerships between the university and the private sector, to start the company and license the software.

“This is a perfect example of how (UNL) researchers, when teamed with experts who know the needs of end users, can create value in a market,” said David Conrad, executive director of NUtech Ventures.

Red Brain Law Enforcement Services partnered with The Omega Group, developers of  crime analysis products, to widely release the software application.

“Working with The Omega Group provides us a fantastic opportunity to reach a much broader market,” said Ian Cottingham, Red Brain’s president. “Leveraging their existing distribution channels allows us to focus on what we are passionate about, which is building cutting-edge software. Omega gets to add a transformative product to their lineup, and we reach more officers. It’s a huge win for both companies.”

The idea for NEARme, formerly called Proactive Police Patrol Information, or P3i, came from Casady. Then Lincoln’s police chief, Casady reasoned that if he could find a restaurant in the area on his phone, officers could view location-based crime data while in the field.

Officers using NEARme see nearby “police points of interest” on their GPS-enabled smartphones or tablets. They can then pursue outstanding warrants, make proactive visits to parolees or check on registered sex offenders through an approach called community policing.

“An offender’s ability to be anonymous will be greatly reduced. Officers will know their name, face and where they live,” Casady said. “It has incredible potential in community corrections.”

University of Nebraska Public Policy Center researchers teamed with Casady to study the software’s implications for justice, technology uptake and evaluation. The development team included spatial data mining researchers and software developers from UNL’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering to build the application with a grant from the National Institute of Justice.

“It is a nice teaming of practical problem solving, academic research and technology,” said Alan Tomkins, policy center director.

RedBrain Inc., parent company of the Law Enforcement Services subsidiary, was formed in December 2009 by Cottingham and Kevin Farrell to assist in transitioning research conducted at UNL into commercially viable products. Cottingham heads the Computing Innovation Group in UNL’s computer science and engineering department. The CrimeView NEARme software is the first product released a Red Brain subsidiaries.