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 (19): PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports on Facial Recognition

BBC Featured Deep Learning Face Recognition Analyzed (Digital Barriers) on Aug 30, 2017
The UK's largest broadcaster, BBC, recently featured Digital Barriers (also based in the UK) on a segment highlighting face recognition technology....
Nest Cam IQ Tested on Jul 10, 2017
Nest has released their latest entry in their camera line, the Nest Cam IQ, touting 4K "Supersight", facial recognition, "HD audio", invisible IR,...
Bill Gates Funded Startup Evolv Gets $18M For The "Most Advanced Threat Detection System" on Mar 17, 2017
Evolv Technologies has just raised $18 million, bringing its total to $30M, for developing what the company says is the most advanced threat...
Face Recognition Camera Tested (Netatmo) on Jan 29, 2016
Can face recognition make home security "better"? That is the bold claim from startup Netatmo with their Welcome camera. But with face...
Simplicam Facial Recognition Tested on Jan 23, 2015
Facial recognition, available for $150? That's the offer from a startup, Simplicam, who has not only cloned Dropcam setup and user interface but...
Japanese Stores Facial Recognition Sharing on Apr 21, 2014
A controversy is brewing in Japan after a newspaper was tipped off about a practice stores use to combat shoplifting. A network of stores uses...
Debunking Start-Up's FST21 Case Study on Oct 07, 2013
This company won ISC West Best in Show 2 years ago, recently received $5 million in funding and is being talked about as the next big thing in...
The Laziest RFP Ever on Aug 13, 2013
Bad RFPs - out of date, vague or just plain confusing - are common. But this RFP is on a whole other level. It is as if no one even looked at...
3VR Significant Layoffs on Jun 28, 2013
3VR has laid off 15 employees, five of which are from its sales team, IPVM has learned. This leaves the company with a skeleton crew of three sales...
Multi-Camera Tracking Works? on Jun 27, 2013
Being able to track people across cameras and buildings simply by using cameras and analytics is something of a 'holy grail' for the surveillance...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Reseting IP Cameras - 30 Manufacturer Directory on Sep 22, 2017
Every camera has a reset button (well, almost) but it is not always clear what these buttons do, how long they need to be held, what settings they...
80+ OEMs Verified Vulnerable To Hikvision Backdoor on Sep 22, 2017
Over 80 Hikvision OEM partners, including ADI, Interlogix, LTS, and Northern Video, have been verified as having products vulnerable to the...
Genetec Launches Cloud Access Control (Synergis SaaS) on Sep 21, 2017
Genetec's cloud everything expansion continues, with their announcement of Synergis SaaS edition, joining their cloud video offering Stratocast,...
Genetec CEO Warns Against Insider Threats on Sep 21, 2017
With Dahua and Hikvision cybersecurity issues becoming indisputable, a new counter has emerged. Just put them behind a firewall, buy cheap...
New IPVM Calculator V3 Released on Sep 20, 2017
The New IPVM Calculator V3 is released. An entirely new architecture delivers the following benefits: Turbo The calculator is now ~50% faster in...
Automatic Door Operators For Access Tutorial on Sep 20, 2017
Opening and closing doors might sound simple, but it takes a high-tech piece of door hardware to pull it off. Integrating automatic door operators...
'Clowns' Allege Ubiquiti 'Completely Fraudulent' on Sep 20, 2017
A short seller has alleged Ubiquiti is 'completely fraudulent'. Ubiquiti's CEO has responded calling them 'clowns'. Here is the short...
Avigilon 'Blue' Cloud Entry Examined on Sep 19, 2017
Avigilon is moving to the cloud. The company announced their Avigilon Blue platform, designed to be a web-managed surveillance system, utilizing...
HID Buys Mercury Security on Sep 19, 2017
One of the biggest access control deals in years. Mercury Security, the most widely used access hardware OEM, and partner to 20+ manufacturers,...
Hikvision Backdoor Exploit on Sep 18, 2017
Full disclosure to the Hikvision backdoor has been released, allowing easy exploit of vulnerable Hikvision IP cameras. As the researcher, Monte...

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