FAILED: Facial Recognition & Boston Bombing

Author: John Honovich, Published on Apr 20, 2013

Facial recognition vendors have been tripping over themselves to take credit, insert or claim the wonders of their offerings to identify the Boston bombers. However, an excellent Washington Post investigative report cites Boston's Police Commissioner, confirming that:

"Facial-recognition software did not identify the men in the ball caps. The technology came up empty even though both Tsarnaevs’ images exist in official databases."

So what solved the case? A lot of:

"Work [that] was painstaking and mind-numbing: One agent watched the same segment of video 400 times."

Plus, a critical tip from a victim who had seen the bomber face to face:

"FBI agents quickly came to Bauman’s bedside. A man in sunglasses and black baseball cap had walked right up to him, placed a black backpack on the ground and stepped away, Bauman remembered.

His tip became a critical lead, according to law enforcement officials."

A story that should be about the around the clock work of human investigators and the resolve of a man whose legs were torn off has been turned into a promotional campaign for technology vendors.

Technical Barriers to Facial Recognition

The images captured on the street, both from surveillance cameras and smartphones, were not good enough to deliver high accuracy matching. Recall the video from the Lord & Taylor's surveillance cameras, excerpt below:

There's too much downtilt plus the subjects are tending to look the other way, plus the pixel density is too low (standard definition camera with a ~15 foot wide FoV). And obviously the other suspect (#1) was wearing a forward facing cap and sunglasses, causing even more problems.

Note, this does not mean the cameras deployed were necessarily 'bad'. They are sufficient for general monitoring but not for the radically more demanding needs of facial recognition.

Only 'Hollywood' make believe facial recognition could use this.

Ironically, the images from smartphones were of better suitability for facial recognition than surveillance cameras. Here's an excerpt from one of the best ones:

This is obviously from a much wider FoV and the resulting pixel density is too low to deliver accurate facial matching. A fuzzy image of a face may be 'easy' for a human to verify against a specific person/photo but ask a computer to do this against millions of images and it becomes an exercise in futility.

Comments (18) : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports on Facial Recognition

Congressional Letter Urges Sanctions Against Dahua and Hikvision For Human Rights Abuses on Sep 04, 2018
17 US Congresspeople sent a letter to the Secretary of State and Treasury urging sanctions against Chinese officials plus Dahua and Hikvision,...
Video Analytics Integration Guide on Aug 16, 2018
Video analytics is hot again (at least conceptually) but integrating video analytics with VMSes can be challenging. This is especially significant...
RealNetworks Free School Facial Recognition on Aug 03, 2018
The company that created RealPlayer is moving beyond media delivery and into the security space with a new facial recognition platform they have...
99.9997% Accurate Amazon Facial Rekognition Falsely Matches 28 on Jul 27, 2018
A new facial recognition controversy has arisen, with the ACLU cleverly using Amazon's Rekognition service to falsely match 28 Congresspeople to...
AI Startup Anyvision Raises $28 Million Led By Bosch on Jul 20, 2018
Anyvision is the most ambitious heavy-spending video surveillance startup in many years. And, now, the startup has raised $28 million led by...
FST Fails on Jul 17, 2018
FST was one of the hottest startups of the decade, selected as the best new product at ISC West 2011 and backed with tens of millions in...
Hikvision Wins Chinese Government Forced Facial Recognition Project Across 967 Mosques on Jul 16, 2018
Hikvision has won a Chinese government tender which requires that facial recognition cameras be set up at the entrance of every single mosque...
Belgium Bans Private Facial Surveillance on Jul 06, 2018
Belgium has effectively banned the use of facial recognition and other biometrics-based video analytics in surveillance cameras for private,...
GDPR / ICO Complaint Filed Against IFSEC Show Facial Recognition on Jun 20, 2018
IPVM has filed a complaint against IFSEC’s parent company UBM based on our concern that the conference violates core GDPR principles on...
IFSEC 2018 Final Show Report on Jun 20, 2018
IPVM attended the IFSEC show for the first time this year. The Chinese took over the show, centered on Hikvision, flanked by Dahua, Huawei and a...

Most Recent Industry Reports

25% China Tariffs Finalized For 2019, 10% Start Now, Includes Select Video Surveillance on Sep 18, 2018
A surprise move: In July, when the most recent tariff round was first announced, the tariffs were only scheduled for 10%. However, now, the US...
Central Stations Face Off Against NFPA On Fire Monitoring on Sep 18, 2018
Central stations are facing off against the NFPA over what they call anti-competitive language in NFPA 72, the standard that covers fire alarms....
Hikvision USA Starts Layoffs on Sep 18, 2018
Hikvision USA has started layoffs, just weeks after the US government ban was passed into law. Inside this note, we examine: The important...
Chinese Government Praises Hikvision Following Xi Jinping on Sep 17, 2018
The Chinese government council responsible for managing China's state-owned companies praised Hikvision’s obedience to China’s authoritarian leader...
Amazon Ring Spotlight Cam Tested on Sep 17, 2018
Amazon's Ring has released their latest camera entry, the Spotlight Cam, which we bought and tested in our Consumer IP Camera Analytics...
European Mega Security Firm Verisure Pushing Security Fog on Sep 17, 2018
The European mega security firm Verisure (Securitas Direct), with a reported 2 million customers, is pushing security fog, as shown in this BBC...
IP Camera Cable Labeling Guide on Sep 14, 2018
Labeling cables can save a lot of money and headaches. While it is easy to overlook, taking time to label runs during installation significantly...
Favorite Intercom Manufacturers 2018 on Sep 14, 2018
Intercoms are certainly increasing in popularity, driven by the integration of video and IP networking. But who is the favorite? On the one side,...
Vivotek 4MP Camera Tested (FD8379-HV) on Sep 13, 2018
Next in our series of updated 4MP testing, we bought and tested Vivotek's FD8379-HV, and entry level 4MP model claiming "top-notch quality video in...
Ascent / MONI Faces Lender Lawsuit and Debt Crisis on Sep 13, 2018
ASCMA, aka Ascent, aka Brinks Home Security, aka MONI, aka Monitronics is being sued by a group of their lenders who allege: As of June 30,...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact