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LINGUANET is working towards an advanced system for multilingual operational communication between regional police forces and emergency services in Europe. It will also incorporate methodologies pertinent to broader applications in transnational disaster relief and rescue coordination. Rationalised telematics-based communications and simple forms of translation where appropriate will help police officers to overcome language and operational barriers. Demonstration will make use of controlled composition, manipulation and exchange of multilingual texts, and investigate speech generation and graphics transmission.
LinguaNet started from a knowledge base of considerable experience in designing controlled languages, translation, and procedures for operational communication. The project also had the benefit of a prototype network designed and installed by the co-ordinating partner.
The police user group has examined and reported its cross border communication requirements. The consortium has studied these in the light of analysis of actual performance with the prototype system. As a result, specifications for the advanced version of the system have been prepared and the project is ready to start building the system.
LinguaNet has completed two major work packages:
1) User Requirement Analysis
2) Development of Specification.
At the same time work has continued on activities such as maintenance, expansion, and enhancement of the existing prototype.
User Requirement
Three public sector application are considered possible for the application of LinguaNet:
- regional application - such as in the present prototype system which is based around autonomous regional centres, with no one organisation making overall decisions.
- international application - where the model has an organisation such as Europol or Interpol with a single management hierarchy and a legal existence independent of national police forces and where decision making is likely to be centralised.
- inter-agency application - similar to the Channel Tunnel ICC-PCO connection (i.e. between incident control centres on either side of a border) where one country's emergency services might be called in to aid the other.
In the context of multi-national police activity, the laws governing the conduct of police communication are a major issue. Considerable progress has been made by the University of Leuven which began by identifying the salient features of the laws of the countries involved in the project. In this area, useful concertation has taken place with the Aventinus project with which LinguaNet has agreed to share results.
Requirements are tempered by the availability of technologies. Whilst these are to some extent anticipated by the prototype, they have been reinforced by two reports on:
- technology for mobility and connectivity, performed by Philips
- feasibility of linguistic support, by the language engineers in the consortium.
The role of the prototype and experience of its use operationally, underpins the user requirement. A significant proportion of the work completed in the first part of the project has been concerned with evaluation, functional enhancement and geographic extension of the prototype.
The specifications were approved at a full meeting of the consortium in February '97. The project is also creating a major incident scenario as mock up of the system in action for evaluation purposes.
User Group, Promotion and Awareness
The role of the police users in LinguaNet is fundamental. Their participation is massive and features in every report produced so far by the project.
LinguaNet users can be divided into three broad categories:
- police agencies (20 forces in 5 countries use the prototype on a daily basis) provide continuous feedback to the Consortium and generate at the same time a stream of operational messages in many languages, for analysis
- public agencies which work closely with the police, e.g., the other emergency services, customs, and special investigation agencies; these play an increasingly important role through their assistance in the development of the project mock-up
- private sector organisations such as car hire companies; credit card agencies; private security companies; insurance companies; training institutions.
Outline of the System
Each terminal location has the language interface appropriate to it and a contact address list suited to its activities. Some stations have contact with the entire user community. Most of the connections are made between static terminals. In the future, the bulk of the communications traffic is expected to be between static installations at national and level. Mobile communications links such as radios, pagers, and mobile telephones and terminals will be the subject of trials at a later date.
Typical Features:
The following features either exist in the prototype or are anticipated in the new system:
- user interfaces in all network languages
- encryption
- user specified templates for routine operational messages
- translation of templated and controlled text
- integrated multimedia: sounds and images
- interaction with system by way of controlled speech
- text to speech conversion in all network languages
- search facilities and message scanning
- on-line operational police/services' multi-lingual lexicons
- on-line 'directories': emergency contacts procedures
The Way Ahead
LingaNet has been the subject of great interest. In addition to completing the construction of the new system a number of opportunities to exploit the project will be explored.
Public Sector
The application of LinguaNet offers opportunities for improving co-operation between a wide range of public services in Europe in addition to the police, especially areas such as fire and rescue, medical, ambulance, coastguard and emergency planning, which traditionally work together. In this context, stand alone portable LinguaNet networks can be brought into service in the event of major emergencies. The same scenarios can also be used for multinational exercise and training purposes.
Exploitation in this arena is likely to take place through strategic alliances which are being sought with companies already active in the provision of communications systems to the public services of Europe.
Private Sector
LinguaNet is not solely directed at public service applications. The development also has applications and benefits for organisations which suffer from criminal activity conducted on an international scale. These include banks, insurance companies, credit card issuers, vehicle hire and plant hire companies, car manufacturers, hauliers, couriers, dispatching services and security companies.
Opening of internal frontiers within the EU and increasing mobility leads to a wider need for police forces and other public services to exchange operational information with counterparts in other states. Effective co-ordination requires real time communication across linguistic and organisational barriers.

The Kent County Constabulary act as co-ordinators for police forces in four countries. These are connected by way of a prototype system in operational use for the past two years.

Potential users of the system include Emergency services such as fire and ambulance/medical services. Other sectors such as credit card companies and car hire companies also benefit from the system.

Organisations such as the police exchange messages concerning such matters as missing persons and stolen vehicles between operational police units in several countries. The exchange permits rapid cross border co-ordination of action.

The objective of the project is to assist police officers in their work by establishing a network of terminals in Europe which will facilitate communications between them by, for example, the sending of formatted messages with translation where possible.

The preliminary system (Email) will have a top layer purpose-built by Prolingua Ltd, written in Standard ML and using the Poly/ML system, X-Windows/Motif interface, with the lower layer based on standard UNIX components. The demonstrator platform will be decided after user analysis.

Progress and results

The project's results will include: user requirement, specifications and a first implementation of the required software.

The project will also produce annual reports intended for a broad public documenting the main results obtained. These will be widely circulated to police agencies and organisations responsible for law-enforcement.


A preliminary demonstrator assists the identification of user needs, and provides large databases of genuine communications for analysis. The project demonstrator will incorporate additional tools and facilities identified. It will be tested at two or more test sites chosen from the preliminary demonstrator sites.

The project is expected to provide the basis for a commercial product to meet the real-time communication needs of the European police forces. The product will be marketed either by one or more of the project partners or by a third party systems vendor. Other (compatible) versions of the system will be developed for emergency services and certain commercial organisations. The results will prompt developments in other multilingual communications settings which lend themselves to similar treatment.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


Prolingua Limited
181A Huntingdon Road
CB3 0DJ Cambridge
United Kingdom

Participants (2)

Kent County Constabulary
United Kingdom
Sutton Road
ME15 9BZ Maidstone
5600 Jm Eindhoven