When will technology be able to predict crimes like the Oregon shooting?

Could this company predict the next terror attack?
Could this company predict the next terror attack?

A few decades from now, experts hope that algorithms and artificial intelligence will get good enough to help law enforcement officials prevent crimes like Thursday's shooting in Oregon.

Hitachi announced new technology earlier this week that takes a step in this direction.

The company's Visualization platform uses software and hardware to track, collect and analyze data from the Web and local authorities to predict when and where crimes might occur.

Using a program that interprets the semantics and contexts of online posts, Hitachi's Predictive Crime Analytics system can home in on public tweets to find trending topics that signal threatening behaviors. The platform also takes into account factors such as weather and historical crime data.

To find where incidents may unfold, Hitachi uses location data from social media platforms and information from public surveillance networks, which include license plate readers, street cameras, gunshot sensors, and 911 dispatch systems.

Hitachi processes all of this data in real-time, then pushes predictions out on a heat map for law enforcement officials to monitor.

The map shows the likelihood of particular events based on types of crime: theft, assault, and sexual abuse.

hitachi predictive crime

Darrin Lipscomb, CTO of Hitachi Data Systems' Public Safety and Visualization group, told CNNMoney that Predictive Crime Analytics isn't meant to replace law enforcement, but rather to help officials send teams to the right place at the right time.

So if police had access to Hitachi's Predictive Crime Analytics platform this week, could it have foreseen Thursday's Oregon shooting? Lipscomb says no.

"It's such a random event unfortunately," he said. "I don't think any software company can claim they could have predicted that, but we're headed in that direction."

With enough processing power and a lot more data to learn from, Lipscomb added, "We will get there...in a few decades."

Six cities in the U.S. have already signed up to join Hitachi's Predictive Crime Analytics pilot program. Lipscomb said the company isn't ready to announce which ones yet.

Many people have compared the company's new software to the fictional "Precrime" system featured in Tom Cruise's movie "Minority Report," but Lipscomb says the two are different.

Hitachi is not trying to target people. "We're trying to put police in the right time for a future event," he said.

In the film, people are arrested before a crime is even committed.

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