Diving into Digital
Nearly a million minutes of video content will cross the global IP network by 2019—which means that more video than ever is floating around networks, and it's not all just for entertainment.1 Whether it’s the introduction of police-worn body cameras or viral videos of crimes appearing across social media, it’s clear why officers are increasingly depending on videos to find evidence and solve crimes. However, the amount of data being created in the form of video content is staggering, and law enforcement is struggling to keep up the volume of data being produced.
With more visual data being produced, distributed and consumed than ever before, it can take weeks or months for someone to manually go through the mounds of seized video data—sometimes the job never gets completed. When you are looking for a specific activity, person, image or other clue—it can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Automating the investigation process
As the digital revolution started picking up steam, so did the need for law officers to collect large volumes of digital information such as digital images and video. With the exponential increase in digital content from the proliferation of personal cameras and the Internet, law enforcement realized they needed scalable equipment to manage and efficiently review and analyze large quantities of digital media.
Automated technology makes it possible to quickly prioritize pertinent data and aid the user in picking up on clues that were not uncovered by the naked eye. Evidence often comes from some of the most popular forms of recording devices, including:
- Police-worn body cameras: One of the newest forms of video footage found in law enforcement comes from police-worn body cameras. After many high-profile law enforcement cases hit the United States news cycle in the summer of 2014, body cameras have become more prevalent among law enforcement.
- Surveillance cameras: Another common form of video footage used in law enforcement cases comes from the use of a surveillance camera. Whether it be that of a business or personal property, surveillance cameras are used as a “third eye.” Most commonly used to protect valuables and people from burglars, the footage on a camera can be invaluable to a range of cases.
- Personal cell phones: The increase of personal videos has made its way into law enforcement. Eye witnesses are using personal cell phones to record crimes – which in turn get posted to social media channels for public consumption. Sometimes users do not even know they are recording anything important, but in hindsight they can provide very detailed information about a short timeframe.
- Web cam recordings: Self-made footage using a web cam device may not overwhelm the officer in the average investigation, but it is certainly more common in specific cases. Whether it be from a cell phone or web cam, personal recordings in general can provide rich sources of information when looking for clues.
Choosing the technology
So what exactly does the right technology do? It will quickly process the segments of video in order to assist the investigator in finding the evidence needed. From processing lengthy videos into shorter snips to combining clips to find exactly what is needed.
When using technology to analyze video content, the tool must have the ability to:
- Eliminate unwanted data – The technology used must have the capability to aid the user by presenting the most important footage, skipping through the hours of unwanted footage.
- Leverage motion and audio – Footage of people standing still will most likely not add to evidence. Law officers need a technology that will pick up on the motion, audio and other potential sources of information in each video, enhancing the evidence.
- Store large amount of data – The technology must be scalable enough to store the footage for an unlimited amount of time, allowing officers and investigators to access the data at any time.
- Integrate with external tools – It is important for law officers to choose a technology solution that not only analyzes video data, but also seamlessly works with other tools in place, allowing officers to pass data back and forth.
No matter what technology solution is chosen, it is important to remember why a tool that analyzes video is so important. No matter how many times an investigator looks at footage, there may be one thing that they miss. Technology that analyzes the video sees more than the naked eye, narrowing in on an item that may have been missed. Whether it be the small backpack on the thief running away or the fact that the suspect has an ear piercing, the smallest things are picked up by the video analysis.
By capitalizing on the increasing trend of video data in today’s world, law officers are using the footage to their advantage and solving difficult cases more quickly, as well as freeing up time to complete a range of other important tasks that come along with the job. While law enforcement needs to put all the clues together, technology’s role is to make sure actual evidence does not get lost in a sea of footage.
- “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology 2014—2019.” http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/ip-ngn-ip-next-generation-network/white_paper_c11-481360.html
Johann Hofmann is the director of Griffeye Technologies and has more than eight years of experience in applied image and video analysis. He has equipped law enforcement agencies with digital investigation technologies operating in 25 countries.