One year ago this month, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two very simple, homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Even before the smoke had cleared on Boylston Street, law enforcement agencies were actively seeking eyewitness pictures and videos captured by the many civilians who witnessed the explosions.
Police also wanted images and videos taken immediately prior to — and following — those bombs cooking off.
Testing, Testing, Check, Check
Good news was that the response was overwhelming — thousands of valuable digital files were submitted.
Bad news was that the response was so overwhelming that those agencies weren’t able to quickly analyze the inbound information — their server infrastructure couldn’t handle the volume of submissions.
So, tomorrow (Thursday, April 10, from 0900 to 1200 hours Pacific Time, 1200-1500 Eastern) an online exercise will be conducted in which a new file-sharing platform — through which eyewitnesses may share pictures and video with law enforcement — will be tested.
The Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository (LEEDIR for short) is an eyewitness photo and video platform that can be activated (for free) by law enforcement and relief agencies during a major catastrophe such as a large-scale natural disaster or terrorist attack.
“When a large emergency event occurs, law enforcement and relief agencies can request the rapid activation of the LEEDIR platform for free to start receiving and analyzing eyewitness photos and videos,” according to the LEEDIR website.
When a major event occurs, a police agency submits a brief activation form on the LEEDIR website, and makes a quick phone call to the LEEDIR hotline to request activation of the service.
After activation, the LEEDIR iPhone app, Android app, and website are available to receive uploads from citizens who want to share their photos and videos with law enforcement.
An expandable cloud-server infrastructure is then launched — in order to process virtually unlimited volumes of photo and video evidence — and participating agencies are provided access to an “administrative media management/analysis interface” for evaluation of the inbound files.
Appropriately, LEEDIR can only be launched for large-scale events involving multiple jurisdictions and/or disciplines, and have at least 5,000 people in attendance and/or cover at least five square miles (think Boston Marathon bombing, and you’ve got the idea).
Crowdsourcing, CitizenGlobal, and the Amazon You Don’t Know About
The strategy is called crowdsourcing, and if you’ve watched any of the 24/7 “news channels” lately, you’ve seen some attempts at crowdsourcing during the search for flight MA370 —ordinary citizens scanning satellite images for signs of debris from the ill-fated airliner.
Interestingly, LEEDIR platform is a public safety / private sector partnership conceived by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and comprised of two Internet infrastructure technology companies.
It appears that CitizenGlobal is a relatively new — and by all appearances, relatively small — company with a lot of promise and potential. Amazon Web Services may be the biggest Internet technology company you’ve never heard of, as it has quickly become a behemoth in the web hosting space.
Together — and under the guidance of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) — the two companies are aiming to create a highly scalable server infrastructure to handle extremely large volumes, and:
1.) Enable the transfer of large size files which are often blocked by email systems
2.) Provide the ability for collaborative analysis
3.) Enable automatic video transcoding of different video codecs
4.) Provide ‘cloud storage’ for vast volumes of digital data
5.) Enable agencies to have managerial / curation tools for the collected files
Police agency email and website infrastructure is not set up — nor should it be — to handle the intake of massive volumes of video and image files, and the LEEDIR system may be found to fill that gap.
There’s really only one way to find out if the system — announced as a concept only a few months ago — really works. Take part in the test.
Here’s the basic information for tomorrow’s exercise:
American law enforcement agencies (international agencies are also welcome to participate in the exercise) are encouraged to upload any video(s) and high-resolution photos — agency recruitment videos, crime prevention videos, etc. — to the LEEDIR website during the hours of the exercise. Be advised: you must follow your agency’s policy, procedures, and privacy guidelines!
All files can be uploaded via Internet-connected computers, as well as wirelessly via Android and iPhone apps on mobile phones and tablet computers.
For discussion and feedback, follow the #LEEDIR hashtag on Twitter and Facebook during and after the exercise.
The test tomorrow is intended to allow police agencies to learn how to use LEEDIR as well as create the ability for future use in the event of a terror attack or major disaster. For further information on how LEEDIR works click here or check out the video above.