What is LinguaNet?
a specially designed, messaging system for cross border, mission critical
operational communication by police, fire, ambulance, medical, coastguard, disaster
response coordinators. The version outlined here was developed for the police in Europe.
- LinguaNet provides police units with real time, multi language assisted, electronic,
cross-border communication. Started in response to the relaxation of European frontier
controls, LinguaNet provides a simple, cost effective and adaptable link for routine
communication between operational police units across frontiers.
- Used in concert with national bureaux of Interpol, LinguaNet has now been running in
operational conditions, over a four year period. Police units in nine countries have
installed the system and thousands of messages have been exchanged over the period:
Calais, Caen, Dieppe, Bruges, Kent, Hampshire, Humberside, London, Madrid, Paris, Frethun,
Rotterdam, Santander, Munich, Zeeland and many more.......
..........a system built with and for European police officers.
- LinguaNet transfers messages containing formatted text (persons, vehicles, bank cards,
firearms etc.), free text & high quality images. Sound files and attachments may also
be transferred using this same technology. The contents were specified by police, for
- LinguaNet was created for easy learning. Two hours is sufficient for a non-technical
- An impressive record of operational successes and an enthusiastic user group proves its
- Encryption may be used where communicating sites adopt the same encryption software.
- LinguaNet is not expensive. At the present time a single one-off introductory licence
fee of £500 per site provides permanent access to the latest version.
.........a tool used by front line police units in nine countries
- LinguaNet has been installed at 50 police sites in Belgium, France, the Netherlands,
Spain, United Kingdom, Denmark, and Germany. Due to the history of the development many of
these sites are at ports and airports. Two sites are at the Channel Tunnel for emergency
use. Two more are in countries bordering the EU to the East for experimentation with
- There are also mobile (laptop/GSM) LinguaNet stations which are used for communications
during special or short term operations
Where is LinguaNet of particular value?
· for cross-border links
.... Operational units need good cross-border communications, especially when time is
short. LinguaNet's unique value is seen when problems like these are found:
· language barriers
- incompatible working times
- differences in administration
- lack of knowledge about the personnel on the other side
- concerns about security
- computers systems/ communication equipment incompatibility
- failure to get an answer or connect on the telephone/fax
- need to keep message records
- inability to transmit high quality colour images
- response is needed quickly (perhaps from more than one location)
- need for certainty that a message has got through
- security worries about using the Internet ....etc.
· for quick preparation of routine enquiries and replies
........LinguaNet enables officers to create and transmit routine enquiries and replies
to those enquiries quickly. It uses pre-formatted messages, designed by police, for topics
such as persons, vehicles and firearms. Free text information may also be sent (see below:
compatible machine translation). Pictures from scanners, digital cameras or pre-existing
files greatly assist communication. It is simple to insert these into LinguaNet messages
using its TWAIN interface.
· where an email link tailored for police work would help cooperation
........LinguaNet is superior to telephoning or faxing. It has the advantages of
conventional electronic mail and other advantages too. For example:
-An accurate record of an operational message can be kept.
- Communication can be made direct, without server intervention/delays.
- Confirmation of receipt, if requested by the sender, is compulsory and automatic.
- Formatted police messages can be read in several languages.
- Previous messages can be searched (in any LinguaNet language).
- The progress of a LinguaNet transmission can be monitored by the sender.
- Pictures etc. can be placed within the messages....not just sent as attachments.
· where uncoordinated technical developments and changes occur constantly.
Police forces in different nations make changes to their information and communication
systems at different speeds. They also make different choices. The result is
incompatibility. LinguaNet, maintains links between users in different forces and
countries nonetheless. It is designed to operate independently and to survive change.
LinguaNet contains a unique software transport system to allow one Windows machine to
communicate directly with another.
LinguaNet must also be adaptable to allow for improvements. The system has two,
technically separate, but fully integrated parts: an application part for message
preparation and a transport part for the transmission and reception of those messages.
This is a flexible architecture which allows further developments to take place easily.
For example, further messages, languages and facilities can be added easily to the
application part without disturbing the transport part. Equally, the transport part can be
changed to another form of transport without disturbing the application.
How does LinguaNet deal with the language problem?
No one can hope to learn properly all the European languages and machine translation
will never be accurate enough for the exchange of life or death messages. LinguaNet
provides the very best that can be done at present and gives a methodology for the future
- multi-lingual interfaces: users at any site have a choice of interface languages
and may switch from one to another. In France the interface is generally shown in French,
in Germany, German. As further sites are established more language interfaces will be
- automatic translation of formatted text: vehicles, persons, credit cards,
firearms etc. with great accuracy. Police officers from all the participating nations have
agreed standard messages and standard translations of the critical police terms in them in
- alternative or supporting non-language media: LinguaNet allows, for example, good
quality colour images within the body of messages (persons, vehicles, firearms, documents,
fingerprints......). These may come from scanners or digital cameras via the TWAIN
interface or from file sources. Further developments underway such as the creation of
multilingual picture annotation software will increase further the system's interlingual
- free text without translation: for safety reasons LinguaNet does not
attempt to translate automatically messages which are sent in free text. It does however
allow free text, in most European languages. This is transmitted in its original form.
Free text additions usually relate to accompanying, already translated, formatted text
(e.g. "more about the person/vehicle described"). This connection assists
interpretation of the free text. Additionally, LinguaNet works well alongside free text
machine translation systems. Police users have found commercial products like these useful
for making rough translations of incoming free text in LinguaNet messages. Such
products are not of course recommended for producing free text parts of outgoing
- multilingual police lexicons: the team which developed LinguaNet has already
built comprehensive police specific lexicons for use between some languages. As funding
opportunities arise, more are being created.
- more languages: the compilation of the Italian version of LinguaNet took about
four weeks to complete. This is an indication of the speed with which other languages can
be added. Any user anywhere has the choice (at any time) of all the current LinguaNet
languages in which to operate simply by opting for a different regional setting. LinguaNet
languages are: Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish and Portuguese.
Where was LinguaNet developed?
- LinguaNet was first developed by Prolingua for police and emergency services working at
the Channel Tunnel. It was later expanded to deal with cross Channel police communications
between the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and The Netherlands.
- In 1995 the European Commission DGXIII Framework IV Programme provided partial support
for the further development of LinguaNet under a three year project. Prolingua
co-ordinated this project, which was exhibited as a "success story" at the
European Telematics Exhibition in Barcelona in 1998. In 1999 the system also received the
first prize for language technology from the Minister for Trade in a National competition
organised by the UK Department of Trade and Industry.
- The original UNIX LinguaNet system was rewritten for Windows during the European
Commission project. The UNIX version has however been kept running at one development site
and can communicate with Windows sites.
What other reasons account for the popularity of LinguaNet?
- It is already operational and has been for some time. It is trusted by police users to
handle cross border communications now.
- Police budgets are tight, LinguaNet has therefore been designed to be very simple to
install and simple to operate. It requires very little training and is inexpensive to
purchase and maintain.
- LinguaNet has been thoroughly tested by operational police. It has been running well for
several years and has proved its reliability.
- The output language messages provided by LinguaNet are of a high quality because the
terms used have been agreed already by participating police forces from different
- No "service provider" is involved in LinguaNet. Also, For reasons of security
LinguaNet is presently operated independently of the Internet (although it is capable of
utilising the Internet if adequate security provisions exist).
- LinguaNet is adaptable. It uses standard off-the-shelf PCs and will run on mobile units
(laptops plus GSM phones). It will run with ISDN, X400, TETRA. The Windows operating
system means that inexpensive off-the-shelf peripherals such as printers, scanners,
digital cameras and recorders can be used in conjunction with LinguaNet. On the
connectivity side the present users prefer point-to-point (with recorded delivery),
LinguaNet will however work perfectly well with client server architecture.
LinguaNet may be used to service a big network of contacts or used quite independently
of a large group for "closed circuit" connections between two (or just a few)
users at, for example, frontiers, tunnels, airports, ferry links or other desirable points
of contact. LinguaNet can function in the same way as the familiar "secure"
What has LinguaNet achieved for police?
There have been countless examples of best practice during the years LinguaNet has been
- Over 4 million Euro in stolen vehicles at one LinguaNet location in 3 years
- thwarted child abduction (Dutch and Kent police)
- interception on Spanish/French frontier linked to Manchester drugs gang (French
- traffic violation in Birmingham finds "cattle prod" robber in Berlin (Munich
police, Birmingham and Suffolk)
- effective use against football hooligans at World Cup at Lens, France (Police Nationale
and several UK Forces)
- LinguaNet has achieved an extensive and growing network supported by an active user
Where are the User Groups?
- LinguaNet is only partly technology. The User Groups that have grown up around the
system are an important factor in its success. Police from all participating nations meet
on a regular basis to exchange views on technology, working practices and to help to map
out the operational requirements for systems of the future. The LinguaNet User Group has
become, like so many other international police associations, an opportunity for
establishing trusting international relations.
- The International User Group generally meets twice a year. The current Chairman is Dutch
the Secretary British. Meetings have taken place in most of the participating nations.
What equipment do I need?
Although LinguaNet for Windows will run on any machine that can support Windows NT, 95,
98 and has a modem, to make the most out of the opportunities offered by the program, the
following configuration of standard off-the-shelf equipment is recommended:
- Windows 95 or later with Microsoft Exchange/Windows Messaging installed.
- Working memory of around 24 Mb RAM
- Pentium or equivalent processor if possible.
- PSTN Modem with speed of at least 28800 (quicker if possible to reduce time for
transmission of messages containing images).
- High resolution monitor & video card (minimum 2mb) for High Colour 16 bit display
Useful but not essential:
- Good quality scanner and supporting software - this enables high quality
images from photos and documents to be entered into LinguaNet messages (typically
passports, identity cards etc.).
- Good quality colour printer - this is essential if hard copies of the on screen
images are required.
- A valuable additional item for use with the system is a digital camera to provide
good quality pictures for quick transfer to LinguaNet messages.
· new developments and languages are underway e.g.:
- E.Europe languages
- multilingual police lexicons
- major international incident messages (situation reports and casualty reports)
- special facilities for traffic policing (esp. commercial vehicles)
- multilingual picture annotation
- voice activated elicitation