The European Union is policed by some 1.4 million police officers. Within the 15 countries over 100 independent police forces operate in 18 languages.
Disciplined work practices and the presence of a common purpose compensate to some extent for the linguistic and administrative disparity within this operational community. These two strengths also foster the application of linguistic control methodologies to the creation of purpose-built multilingual systems of communications such as LinguaNet by means of which impediments to international police cooperation can be overcome.
LinguaNet integrates a series of tried and tested linguistic methodologies and two types of enabling technologies. The key linguistic techniques used were developed over the past fifteen years to meet the real operational demands of maritime, police and emergency service communications where fast and accurate messaging is critical.
The enabling technologies fall into two broad categories. The first are largely linguistic software developments. These include the language-processing tools employed to collect and analyse language, produce and access lexicons term banks and directories, run conversions between languages and between different media of communication, e.g. speech from text. Also included are the emerging speech-recognition technologies.
The other enabling technologies of interest to LinguaNet are the rapidly developing transmission technologies and the human interface apparatus associated with them. A number of broad bandwidth transmission systems are now available with associated protocols for message-handling; compression techniques offer the possibility of transmitting bandwidth-demanding images and sounds over low-capacity systems; mobile radio has a greatly enhanced capability; pager technology has improved, and mobile cellular telephone has become widely available.
These technologies enable LinguaNet to employ, by way of carefully constructed system software, a combination of different media, e.g. speech, text and graphics. They also enable a wide variety of stations to participate in LinguaNet's exchanges such that, in principle, almost anyone involved in a police or emergency service operation could generate and receive messages. By way of illustration, LinguaNet will demonstrate that, without the intervention of an operator, an individual officer in the field can interrogate a casualty summary in a major incident report by using any of several languages and irrespective of the language used in the original creation of the report.
The purpose of the LinguaNet build for the police and emergency services is to provide a system able to fulfil the operational demand and nothing more. To do that several new technologies will need to be invoked. Functionalities which achieve only marginal operational benefit, whilst greatly increasing system complexity, will be rejected however. Ease of learning and operation, reliability and security, compatibility and ease of maintenance, together with cost, are the overriding practical constraints. The system build has involved system users from the start. Their collaboration and continuous feedback helps ensure the ultimate practicality of the eventual service.