Technology in Crime Novels

I recently read an article by Stav Sherez about technology in crime books (you can read it here) but I didn’t feel it went far enough. However, I did like the points he made about mobile phones, how we can’t ignore them or say they’ve run out of battery or there isn’t a signal, that is, if we don’t wish to stretch the patience of readers.

Where I believe the article didn’t go far enough was it didn’t explore what technologists and designers are calling the ‘internet of things’. At the last count, our household has at least 12 devices connected to the wi-fi router. Under scenarios discussed at CES 2017, the annual Las Vegas technology show, soon all electronic devices in your home will be connected, including fridges, ovens and burglar alarms.

If this sounds too much like science-fiction to you, detectives investigating a recent murder case in the US asked Amazon for details recorded by the victim’s Echo device on the day of the murder. The Amazon Echo is an always-on, a voice-activated piece of equipment which after issuing the command, ‘Alexa’, will play music from your phone, switch lights on and off or order you a takeaway meal.

Other connected devices you can buy today include the Samsung Family Hub, a fridge that can take pictures of the interior contents even with the door closed, an image you can look at while standing in a supermarket aisle, and burglar alarms and CCTV systems that can alert you to an intrusion and switch CCTV cameras on. A recent case in the UK highlighted the usefulness of this technology when a man spotted burglars breaking into his house on his laptop, whilst on holiday in Spain. He called police in the UK and the criminals were apprehended while still in the house.

The time will come when all this technology is freely available, but how long will it be before detectives in books discover the person responsible for a crime, perhaps from a photograph taken by the fridge of a distinctive hand or ring as it reaches for a beer, or after the victim splutters out with their final breath, ‘Alexa, the name of the killer is…’

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