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Investigative Techniques Using Augmented Reality

Published on June 2nd, 2021 | by Dr. Keith Bhatia & Syed Hussain

Investigative Techniques Using Augmented Reality

Successive generations of technology continue to enable the discovery, assembly, and analysis of information that plays a key role in every law-enforcement investigation. Digitization helped preserve and share files and records, and analytics added new abilities to sift through huge amounts of data to deduce patterns and relationships. As communications networks and lawful intelligence have advanced, ever-richer bodies of data have become available to law enforcement agencies (LEAs) as they investigate individuals, organizations, and events. However, as the bodies of data become larger and more varied, it is an increasing challenge to synthesize them into a coherent whole that can reveal insights to solve and prosecute crimes.

Augmented reality (AR) is in the early stages of helping investigators make better use of those multiple layers of information. In practice, AR consists of overlaying digital information onto a user’s visual perception of the world. That data overlay could indicate an individual’s criminal record or affiliations during surveillance, for example, or identify items of interest in a real-time camera view. Intercepted data related to a person of interest’s communications or physical location can provide investigators with a more sophisticated understanding that improves an investigation’s efficiency and chances for success.

Improving Outcomes for Gathering Evidence

Interpreting a crime scene depends on the expertise and background of investigating officers. While there can be no substitute for those teams’ professional experience, maximizing the data they have available to them in an effective way is valuable. AR can provide additional capacities to officers at a crime scene that could include automatically plotting the positions and distances between items of interest, reconstructing the incident, or identifying critical items, such as weapons or contraband, that need to be preserved for evidentiary or investigative purposes.

At the same time, AR systems could pull in additional data sources in real time to aid in the investigation. Background information about people of interest on the scene, which officers may need to question, can be provided. The person’s location during and just before the time of the crime could be shown to the officer via a map displayed on an AR headset. A person’s posts on social media could be displayed on the same map, showing the geolocation where they were posted. This could be used to corroborate a person’s story. This information along with other bits of data, such as surveillance video paired with facial recognition services or automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) for license plates, could help complete the picture. Potential data sources involved in this approach are open-ended. Cell phone records, vehicle toll-payment transponders, and driver license records are but a small sample of data that can expand the pool of evidence without explicit effort by investigators. An AR engine can even draw on novel data sources such as sensor arrays that analyze the environment for various trace signatures, such as blood, drugs, explosives, or nuclear material. AR platforms could even help test the blood and determine DNA.

The AR engine presents all this data pertinent to the investigation in a visual, interactive form that puts it at team members’ fingertips. For example, it might be possible to look through AR goggles or a smartphone camera at a blood splatter discovered at a crime scene and compare the DNA results to a database. Bullets recovered could be scanned by the phone or headset while still at the scene for ballistics and again, run the results through a database. These robust mechanisms for accessing, assembling, and presenting data can help law enforcement weave together a more compelling body of evidence to pursue warrants for lawful interception, and ultimately to resolve cases faster.

Data Fusion for Investigative Situational Intelligence

Using AR as part of the investigative toolkit can provide capabilities beyond handling data for law enforcement personnel from which to draw conclusions. AR solutions can also play more active roles, such as connecting remote experts in areas such as forensics or explosives to the scene, enabling them to explore through the eyes of an investigating officer, annotate video, provide remote guidance, and otherwise aid in the investigation. They could connect to the lab to show the technicians what they are seeing.  An AR headset and glove can even provide investigators the ability to re-exam articles at the scene, such as blood splatter, shell casings, or weapon placement after they leave the actual scene.

Such analysis need not be limited to an individual crime and situation; it can also stitch together a broader understanding of events that can shed light on a case that would otherwise be hidden. For example, another common mechanism for AR to generate insight is through pattern recognition. Machine-to-machine analysis of photographic evidence in source databases might show the same pattern of wallpaper, marble, or cloth in multiple cases, revealing a connection between them that would otherwise be missed. That information could be added to the AR experience of investigators, providing insight in real time.

In this context, AR can be used to aid in an ongoing case by connecting information obtained through lawful intelligence to a crime scene or other aspects of an investigation. The AR device feeds investigators information that would otherwise be hidden or disconnected, and it can also help assemble the basis for a search warrant to pursue additional lawful interception. The AR technology itself can function as a data-fusion engine and draw conclusions from the information available, saving hours of manual, painstaking comparison by human operators, or even handling work at a scale that would be impossible for humans to handle. AR therefore, has the potential to rise above the level of simply collating and presenting information by offloading tasks from investigative teams and stitching together intercepted data with the rest of the investigative record to generate situational lawful intelligence.

Conclusion

SS8 is at the forefront of not only providing robust lawful intelligence from disparate sources but also fusing together intelligence from lawful intercepts with the broader universe of relevant data to improve law-enforcement outcomes. Based on over two decades of experience, SS8 tools and solutions embrace cutting-edge technologies such as AR. As an emerging component of the toolkit available to LEAs, AR enables data-driven investigations that pull together disparate, far-flung bodies of data and assembles it in a form that is coherent and accessible to officers, helping them work cases more effectively. To learn further how your organization can leverage emerging technologies for your law-enforcement investigations, contact SS8 today.

About Dr. Keith Bhatia

Dr Keith Bhatia Head Shot

As CEO of SS8, Keith combines his broad technical and market knowledge to advance the future of lawful intelligence. In his tenure, he has positioned SS8 as a leader in a world connected by 5G and shaped by increasing digitalization and automation. Keith is impassioned to show how technology can have a positive impact on our world.

About Mr. Syed Hussain

Syed Hussain Headshot

Mr. Hussain has spent 20 years working in the telecommunication industry and brings significant technical expertise to his role as Head of Product Management for Lawful Interception products for SS8. Mr. Hussain represents SS8 in both ETSI and 3GPP standards bodies and at technology summits.

 

About SS8

SS8 provides Lawful Intelligence platforms. They work closely with leading intelligence agencies, communication providers, law enforcement agencies and standards bodies. Their technology incorporates the methodologies discussed in this blog and the Xcipio® and Intellego® product portfolios are used worldwide for the capture, analysis and delivery of data for the purposes of criminal investigations.

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