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article imageBoston Marathon bombing investigators use power of crowdsourcing

By Andrew Moran     Apr 22, 2013 in Technology
Boston - Last week's deadly and tragic bombings in Boston prompted federal, state and local investigators to utilize the power of crowdsourced surveillance, a cache of images from cellphone and camera photos, videos and social network feeds.
The investigation used any and all imagery taken by marathon spectators. The proper authorities called for all marathon attendees to submit any image or video to assist in the investigation in the hopes of catching the perpetrators – local surveillance videos also played an important part in the search.
Right after the bombings took place, social networks were flooded with messages, photos and videos. YouTube videos were instantly uploaded, photographs were immediately tweeted and feeds on Instagram were established. With thousands of spectators wielding digital technology, the amount of evidence would be astronomical.
Officials were concerned that crowdsourcing photographs would inadvertently lead to a witchhunt, which would have hurt the investigation. Nevertheless, as the military discovered, using and processing a vast imagery data would prove beneficial. Within days of the bombings, the two suspects were identified.
With the help of crowdsourcing, futurists and scientists are now researching for algorithms that can pre-select images a human analyst can study. In the coming years, visual data mining will prove to be a lucrative market and CrowdOptic has already tapped into this niche as it produces location-based image curation equipment and technologies.
The San Francisco, California-based firm can verify the most popular objects of photos snapped during events, such as what the Internet experienced during the London Olympics, Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombings. As VentureBeat concluded in its profile of the firm, as CrowdOptic determines these objects, it can aid all level of authorities in detaining the accused, finding missing persons or helping any other type of investigation.
For instance, if you’re searching for important photographs taken during an significant event then perusing social media and typing in key terms would take a long period of time. CrowdOptic software can take a large number of images and use its compass and EXIF data to determine common points of focus.
Photos released by the FBI of potential suspects in the Boston Marathon attacks
Photos released by the FBI of potential suspects in the Boston Marathon attacks
CrowdOptic explains that it understands where cameras and mobile devices are aimed through the use of image metadata. When a government body knows where an incident is taking place then the company’s software can organize images by which devices were aimed at the target. Using geo-location makes the entire ordeal irrelevant because sorting images by the location of the photographer requires a broad circumference. Therefore, CrowdOptic uses focal-location, the only firm to actually use focalcoding.
It should be noted, however, that CrowdOptic played no role in the investigations into the Boston bombings, according to a statement released by Jon Fisher, the company’s CEO.
“Our hearts go out to the people of Boston. These news articles are reporter extrapolations about the capabilities of our software and not the result of a CrowdOptic announcement. CrowdOptic played no role in analyzing the terrible events in Boston, thank you.”
In the end, crowdsourcing tools and software by private firms in the United States could become a revolutionary tool to fight crime and bring the culprits to justice.
More about boston marathon bombings, crowd optic, crowdsourced photographs, instagram, Digital cameras
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