Wednesday, May 29, 2013

PBS Nova: Manhunt: How facial recognition and infrared surveillance technology set a dragnet in Boston after the Marathon tragedy

PBS Nova on Wednesday, May 29 aired a compelling 55-minute documentary “Manhunt: Boston Bombers”, where the use of technology created a dragnet for the Tsarnaev brothers that they probably did not envision.

Part of the technology comprised the enormous library of videos and photos taken by individual people, which almost led to an “Internet Witch Hunt”, at a couple of points fingering wrong people (as the “bag men” in the New York Post).  Use the “Crowd” rather than “Crowd sourcing” one observer said.

More interesting was the aerial infrared surveillance, which was able to show cigarette butts on the ground from an altitude of 5000 feet.  In fact, infrared had spotted Johar’s image in the boat shortly after police got the call from the homeowners. 

The film also explained some of the technology of facial recognition and progressive matching.  This is much more accurate than eyewitness identification, where it is often easy to confuse similar faces of people you don’t know that well.

The link for the program is here


Maybe 30% of the footage in this film came from the air – very impressive.  

Picture: actually Worcester, MA, my trip, July 2011.  

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