Apart from the media sensationalizing the Sniper incidents in the Washington DC area,as indicated in earliers posts, what interested me -a keen watcher of the usefulness of Information Management technology scene - was the news that talked about how information management technology would have helped solve the case. Based on the reports in Federal Computer Week and other information sources let us look at the technologies being suggested/used:
1) In order to sort the thousands of tips that came in through the telephone lines some kind of transcribing technology was used to turn the calls into text. After that that transcription was searched for keywords and phrases in order establish some pattern. The FBI seemed to have chosen a Dutch software company Mitretek Systems to help the investigators make sense of the tip-offs.
And it does not look like that it worked, news channels now have tapes where the messages left on tip phone lines by the snipers themselves were ignored.
2) The police in the US have a huge database of criminals and they tried to use that for matching criminal records. Remember most of the technology here requires manual intervention, agents searching through the huge storehouse of data. Technology Pervades Investigations, But Old-Time Police Work Solves Crimes
3) There was also talk of using technology to match every bullet that was ever fired from a gun back to a particular gun itself, and matching the gun to the owner and to the manufacturer, so on and so forth. This technology does promise almost a surefire method of apprehending the criminals. But hold on, the experts in this area are saying not just yet!
4) It would also interesting to look at another development: a deal signed by the Department of Homeland Security with one of leaders in the intelligent text mining and search companies Autonomy Plc. This report in a British Newspaper makes interesting reading. Autonomy promises to bind together all the federal agencies in the Homeland Security Department with its technology which can process text, audio and video.
So it looks like the criminal justice system in the US needs to find a technology which would help them find relevant and actionable patterns in the vast amount of information that will not be in the database. Technology which could take information from the varied sources like phone calls, email messages and connect this information with information available in their own databases.
And given the problems with implementations with these kinds of technologies it would be difficult to make it work. Autonomy I guess will find out soon!!