Police are using a miniature camera built into a special pen to record their handwritten notes while on the beat ? to save time on paperwork later.
The £100 device is currently being used by 30 police officers in Dorset and is designed to remove the need for officers to return to the station to type up their notes on a computer.
It is hoped that the time saved will free them up to tackle crime.
?The lens is about five millimetres by three millimetres – it is just at the end of the nib and is tiny,? explained Richard Tubb from Dorset Police who points out that officers aren?t generally employed for their typing skills. ?It wouldn?t look out of place in a James Bond movie,? he added.
The kit ? which is cheaper than a handheld computer – could also soon become an everyday tool for other UK police forces. Both the Metropolitan Police and police in Sussex are understood to be using it on a trial basis.
While out on the beat the police officer uses a pressure sensitive notepad that is able to map the pen?s precise position on the page and record each handwriting stroke. The camera is claimed to capture images at 100 frames per second.
The officer then sends the data from a mobile phone to a central computer as an image file using wireless technology such as Bluetooth. Back at the station handwriting recognition software is used to convert the handwriting into text format.
?It means we will spend less time on paperwork,? said Dorset Police chief constable Martin Baker. ?Officers typically spend up to a quarter of their time filling in forms. But now where crime is committed we can be out there investigating offences instead of form filling.?
The pen uses technology developed by Swedish company Anoto and is distributed in the UK by Magicomm.