Wednesday, 12 February 2020 - 10:29am |
National News

Police trials digital person and self-service option

3 min read

News article photos, audio and videos (4 items)

Police’s digital person Ella
Photo of someone using Police Connect (outdoor)
Photo of someone using Police Connect (indoor)

Today, Commissioner of Police Mike Bush announced two trials beginning tomorrow: a new self-service option called Police Connect and a digital person named Ella.

The two services showcase the innovative ways New Zealand Police is modernising its services and will not replace any staff, services, or offices, Commissioner Bush explained.

Self-service wi​th Police Connect

Police Connect are electronic service points that provide some basic non-emergency services to the public 24 hours a day. Four prototype units are being trialed from tomorrow (13 February 2020) at Wellington Central, Featherston and Johnsonville Police Stations.

“Police Connect is about creating more options for the public so they can choose how, where and when they contact us,” says Commissioner Bush.

“Much like online reporting at and the new Police app, we see Police Connect becoming an important tool that will enable our non-emergency services to be in more places, more of the time.”

Police Connect

Connect with Police any time: Indoor and outdoor Police Connect prototype units.

The touch-screen prototypes have three key functions: report a non-emergency incident, speak with someone from Police, and find answers to commonly asked questions.

“We’ll be making improvements based on what we learn from the trial, but we intend to roll Police Connect out to other Police stations, and possibly even public locations such as shopping malls, transport centres and major events, in the near future,” says Commissioner Bush.

Ella, our Electronic Life-Like Assistant

Along with the Police Connect trial, Commissioner Bush revealed Police’s Electronic Life-Like Assistant, Ella. She will be stationed in the lobby of Police’s National Headquarters from Monday 17 February assisting the concierge team and talking to visitors about Police topics such as the 105 non-emergency number and Police Vetting.

“Ella is a digital person that is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and uses real-time animation to emulate face-to-face interactions,” says Commissioner Bush.

“Her capabilities are basic at this stage as she is a Proof of Concept, but we see some real benefits of digital person technology if we can equip the AI with more knowledge and capabilities, and it can learn from more interactions.

“This trial is designed to help Police understand if a digital person makes sense in a policing context, but Ella could eventually provide a variety of non-emergency services and advice in more places and on more devices, such as the NZ Police app and Police Connect.”


  Kiwi through and through: Police’s digital person Ella was designed in close collaboration with New Zealand company Soul Machines.

The future of policing services

Commissioner Bush says Ella and Police Connect show how Police is embracing and exploring digital technologies to develop future-proofed and people-focused non-emergency services accessible to everyone in New Zealand.

“We know that across the country people still want to engage face-to-face with local police in their community, and we will always do this,” says Commissioner Bush.

“We’re in the process of recruiting 1800 new staff to bolster our frontline and ensure we have the capabilities to deliver the best services, emergency and non-emergency, to everyone in New Zealand.

“But technology is transforming the way the public want and expect to interact with organisations and their services – and Police is no different.

“We’ve achieved a lot this past year with the 105 non-emergency number, online reporting and NZ Police app making it easier for the public to access and receive the services and information they want, when they want, and in the ways that suit them.

“But we’re very much just starting this journey, as Police Connect, Ella and other modern digital technologies present many more exciting opportunities for us to provide new and improved policing services.”


  Investing in a safer future: The Kapiti Digital Services Centre opened in 2018 to manage demand for digital non-emergency services.

Police has worked with expert external suppliers on the design, development and delivery of the Police Connect prototype and the digital person proof of concept. Spark, Fronde and Neo were key partners on the Police Connect project, and Intela AI and Soul Machines led the artificial intelligence and digital human development for Ella.

Download the video introducing Ella and Police Connect. If you have any issues, please contact the Media Centre. 

Related downloads

Police’s digital person Ella
Police’s digital person Ella PNG - 7MB
Photo of someone using Police Connect (outdoor)
Photo of someone using Police Connect (outdoor) JPG - 244KB
Photo of someone using Police Connect (indoor)
Photo of someone using Police Connect (indoor) JPG - 223KB
Police Connect and Ella FAQs PDF - 557KB