Droning On

As thousands of amateur enthusiasts will tell you, drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs) are a new, exciting means of video capture. Whether it’s soaring into a beautiful sunset, zooming a hundred feet over the ocean or entering the world’s first drone video festival, more and more people are taking to the skies to capture unique and beautiful aerial video footage.

Granted, the aerial footage from Aunt Betty’s backyard BBQ is fun to look at, but what about business applications? Are there practical uses for drone video outside of entertainment? Are professional tools available to capture a secure, workable video file?

The drones are certainly sophisticated enough. In a furiously competitive market, models range in design from a single-bladed camcopter to six-bladed multicopters that can carry several pounds of cargo and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Battery life and Wi-Fi support continues to grow and improve. Likewise, the cameras are more than capable, with many high-end drones offering built-in high-definition cameras up to 4k.

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The Power of the Database

The creation of digital data during the process of gathering evidence or recording proceedings builds a digital asset that must be properly managed. Various audio/video recording solutions offer both non-database and database-centric solutions, so why the different approaches? What does one offer over the other?

Non-database oriented digital asset management solutions offer an inexpensive, easily accessed, universal model for managing your data. Sounds good, but what about security? What about quickly accessing terabytes of data? What about accessing digital assets concurrently? Good questions. Some of these issues can be addressed with non-database technologies, such as using Access Control Lists, but they are difficult to manage. The problems of security and quick access become exponentially more complex as your digital asset grows in size.

Database-centric solutions offer key advantages over non-database oriented solutions. One of the biggest criticisms of database-centric solutions is cost. In some cases that is a factor, but many database providers have caught on and now offer cost-free solutions, such as Microsoft SQL Express. Another favourite criticism is complexity. Yes, in olden days database administration was a very complicated process. But again, leading database providers now offer essentially “hands-off” database systems. This is particularly important when customers want the security of a database without the hassle of managing it.

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Law Enforcement: What to Do With All That Video… and Audio… and Metadata

 In this edition of the VIQ Tech Blog, John Tomasi looks at the different types of digital data being collected by police, law enforcement and other public safety agencies and discusses some of the management and administrative techniques for wrangling data from all these difference sources into a single, usable tool.

There is a growing need in the law enforcement community for the use of video and audio recording in even the most routine action. Things like dispatch calls, Be On the Lookout (BOLO) bulletins, in-car patrol, surveillance, body cameras, witness interview and suspect interrogation are all being recorded and preserved on a variety of storage media. Digital technology has advanced significantly over the past few years to the point that capturing all of this data is neither complicated nor costly. This has led to vast amounts of data residing on servers all over the world.

The challenge now is what to do with all of that data. How can this data be best utilized in achieving the goals of law enforcement? Certainly these recordings and the associated metadata can be useful as evidence in court proceedings but is that the only way in which this data can provide value?

Increasingly, the answer is “no.” Law enforcement officials and other decision makers are finding that this vast collection of multimedia data can be used in a number of ways. For instance, dash cam video can be used not only as evidence of a crime but also to show sufficient probable cause to conduct a traffic stop. Body camera footage can not only be used for training and officer evaluation but other much more serious purposes such as justifying officer action during the investigation of a possible law violation. The shear ubiquity of news coverage and other public media outlets is putting an ever greater amount of pressure on agencies to share any and all documentation related to officer performance and suspect movement.

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Evidence from Consumer Wearables: Coming Soon to a Court Near You

Every January, tech giants from around the world gather at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to showcase their latest and greatest technology offerings. This year, one of the hottest topics is consumer wearables: portable body-borne technology like Google Glass, Fitbit, smartwatches, and more. Many of these devices are designed for personal consumer use, but as VIQ’s John Tomasi points out, the increasing use of wearable technology is starting to raise legal implications.

The holidays have just concluded and many of the most popular gifts this season were gadgets generally referred to as “wearables”: digital devices that monitor, capture and display all sorts of information. Perhaps the most well-known example of this type of device is Google Glass, a mini-computer that is worn the same way as eyewear and allows the user to browse the Internet, send emails or capture photos or video. Another hot gift this season was the Fitbit activity tracker, a mini-computer that is worn like a watch and captures data on the user’s fitness activities, such as distance traveled, stairs climbed, calories burned and heart rate.

The convenience afforded by these portable devices makes them a popular choice among consumers: Shipments of wearables were expected to reach 19 million units in 2014, a number that could rise to 112 million by 2018.

But this convenience gives rise to new social, ethical and even legal issues. Wearables collect and store all sorts of digital data in various formats. Wired magazine recently featured a thought-provoking article that contemplates a side of all this collected data that most of those wearing these devices have yet to consider. The piece highlights what is most certainly an unintended consequence of the capturing of all of this information: these devices offer a snapshot – and, in some cases, several snapshots – of the activities of the person wearing them, and that data can have legal ramifications.

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The Business of Government – Transparency and Technology for Parliaments and Legislatures

Question periods, speeches, committee meetings, day-to-day operations… With government agencies like parliaments and legislatures, transparency and good governance is key: You need a clear, complete audio and video record of all proceedings, and you need to be able to share those proceedings with your citizens via televised proceedings, audio posted on your website or by publicly available transcripts.

 

Legislatures have unique needs for scheduling, transcription, workflow and more. Shoe-horning an existing court-based recording solution into a legislature is like putting a square peg into a round hole. Your legislative recording solution needs to be designed specifically with your unique needs in mind.

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Digital Media Evidence – Security Guidelines and Considerations

Today I turn things over to Malcolm Macallum, VIQ’s Chief Technology Officer. Malcolm has been with VIQ since 2004 and has many years of experience in the capture and management of digital media evidence in the legal and medical industries. In his role as CTO, Malcolm consistently researches ever-changing global government policies on the capture, handling and management of digital media evidence, including privacy and security regulations, and ensures that VIQ’s solution development matches or exceeds those guidelines.   – Tara

 

Collecting and maintaining audio, video and other types of digital evidence requires a great deal of care, particularly when the data is being moved from place to place. In the justice and other evidentiary fields, such as insurance or policing, the veracity of that digital evidence must stand up to close inspection. In some cases, being able to prove the veracity of your evidence is critical to the outcome of a legal challenge.

Digital evidence was first used as early as 1970 in the US, with changes to the federal criminal code following in 1984. Since those days of DOS, CPM and USCD p-System computers have been used both in the commission of crime and as the means to collect evidence to prosecute those criminals.

Today, sophisticated systems capture and store billions of bits of information, all created and stored on various devices from large enterprise systems to the ubiquitous smartphone and now even smartwatch devices. Video surveillance is increasingly used as evidence in trials or hearings, and “in-session” audio and video recordings, such as testimony or interrogations, capture evidence as it is delivered. Once captured, this data is moved over numerous networks, storage devices and portable memory devices for storage, backup and collaboration. Protecting the veracity of that data is what digital media evidence is all about. Continue reading

Who Needs Digital Media Evidence?

Hello, and welcome to the VIQ tech blog series. I’m Tara, your host for these sessions. Today, let’s talk about the concept of digital media evidence as a whole. The word “evidence” may bring up images of courts, police investigations and other judicial agencies, but digital media evidence goes beyond the legal industry to medical centers, insurance companies, air traffic controllers and more. Digital media evidence encompasses digital audio recording, video recording, attachments, pictures, scanned documents, presentations, spreadsheets, audit logs, databases… virtually anything done over computer. The possibilities are endless. And so are the benefits.

Courts need audio and visual records of proceedings, that’s a given. But digital media evidence can be so much more than that: integrated attachments like evidence photos or signed documents, transcripts, video feeds of remote arraignment or testimony. Imagine all these elements combined into one efficient, streamlined record that is secure but easy to search and share.

Similarly, legislatures around the world require digital audio/video recording of their legislative sessions as well as their numerous committee meetings, but they typically also have strict transcription requirements and need to do it all in multiple languages simultaneously. Imagine being able to do all this in a single solution, complete and at your fingertips. Continue reading