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Computer Science students design mobile language app for police


Computer Science degree students at the University of Wolverhampton have shown great aptitude in creating a mobile app for West Midlands Police front-line officers – helping them to communicate with the community in different languages.

Second year and Master’s degree students studying Computer Science based at the City Campus in Wolverhampton were tasked with working on an android based mobile application (app) designed for use on West Midlands Police’s standard issue mobile phones.

The app translates a number of standard questions into different languages to aid Police Officers when they are faced with potential language barriers during the course of their duties.

The project was the idea of Richard Plumb, currently studying part-time for a Cyber Security degree who also works in the Force Crime Prevention Team at West Midlands Police.

Richard said: “West Midlands Police is always looking for cost-effective ways in which to improve its interface with members of the public.  We have increasingly been making use of translation services which can prove to be both expensive and time-consuming.

“As a part-time student at the University, I approached the Computer Science department with the idea of offering students a live project brief to see if they could design an app which effectively would act as a mobile language translator – helping improve the communication between officers and the public whilst at the same time potentially saving the force money.”

Students were offered the opportunity to plan out the project, following a strict specification drawn up by West Midlands Police with a timescale for producing an initial prototype for testing.  Working in teams the students presented their app designs to a panel which included Richard Plumb, Police Sergeant Paul Frear from Wolverhampton City Centre Police Station and PC Andy Hollies from West Midlands Police.

Postgraduate Computer Science student, Paul Hickman, 26 from Dudley, said:  “This was the first time in my academic career that I’ve worked on a live project and it was really engaging right from the start.  This time, the teams weren’t just chasing grades, we were working together with the project brief in mind, spending additional time trying to get things right for the client.  We’ve all really enjoyed the challenge and are looking forward to hopefully seeing the app in action.”

Police Sergeant Paul Frear said:  “The work that the students have put into developing this app is amazing and it’s really exciting to see the end product taking shape.  This kind of mobile app could make such a difference to people working on the front-line, improving the lines of communication between staff and our communities.”

Alix Bergeret, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “As part of the Computer Science degree courses we offer an employability module whereby students benefit from live projects where they can make use of industry standard tools and methodologies.

“Bringing real life projects into the classroom equips students with industry standard skills whilst at the same time offering them the experience of working directly with external clients and businesses.  The project is really exciting as it has the potential to be used across all emergency services, speeding up response rates.”

The app will be programmed to display standard questions in different languages on the phone or device screen and answers can be clicked and recorded against the questions.  Students also explored capturing pictures of the person using the front-facing camera with options to sound record the person being questioned.

West Midlands Police is currently assessing the viability of the app.


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Date Issued: 20th June 2017

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