Exploring the dangers and reality of modern slavery
By Matt Burns
Research and development is an incredibly important part of the work that we do here at CameraForensics, equipping us with the tools, knowledge, and experience to stay ahead of offenders and supply investigators with the information they need to uncover victims of exploitation and identify those responsible.
From developing new ways to make our tools quicker and more robust than ever before, to uncovering new techniques that allow us to gain extra information from images, our commitment to R&D efforts underpins our passion as a team to drive positive change wherever possible.
But what do these projects involve? Why do they need a continuous focus? What are the challenges that accompany them? We’re going to be answering all these questions and taking a deeper look at our R&D projects below.
Put simply, R&D allows us to enhance how we work with investigators, evolving the services and tools that we provide.
In the past, our projects have provided government bodies, law enforcement agencies, and more with the tools and information needed to accelerate investigations and uncover critical insights. Previously, we’ve developed a deeper understanding of how we can interact with the dark web by building solutions to search and extract information from restricted domains. Through rigorous testing and experimentation, we’ve also been able to ensure that our services don’t falter in speed or performance, thanks to the implementation of a fully horizontally scalable framework. Although just two examples, these past projects highlight the very practical innovations that we want to keep on discovering.
Learn more about our R&D expertise and previous projects.
With a continuous focus on research and development, we can always make sure that we stay one step ahead of offenders and malicious organisations that are constantly attempting to elude detection.
It’s no secret that the emerging technologies landscape is ever-changing and evolving at breakneck speed. By deploying continuous R&D projects, we aim to discover and navigate the very latest threat to detection and anonymity, before the offenders do – allowing us to keep on identifying victims, and maintain our advantage over perpetrators.
We always begin R&D projects with a specific goal or mission in mind. Do we want to try and uncover additional information from our image database? Do we want to try to leverage new techniques to make our products or services more responsive than ever before?
Whatever the project is, we undertake a wide range of processes to make sure that the conclusion we arrive at is evidence-led and robust.
While there are no concrete steps, and these often happen at the same time or even overlap, you’ll commonly find three activities in any project we’re involved in:
By taking a deep dive into the world of academic literature for our R&D projects, we can assess the very latest level of understanding on a chosen field of study or practice – whether this is making searches more efficient or uncovering the latest innovation in analysing image metadata.
Researching the latest papers and investigating their findings and sources gives us accurate and valuable insights into the conclusions currently being made, and gives us a sturdy baseline from which to begin a project.
But how do we know that these papers are reliable and definitive? By breaking them down, critiquing conclusions, and testing findings. Once we have tested research and validated these papers, we can ensure that projects based on these theories are stable and built on strong foundations.
This testing usually happens while we’re critiquing academic research, and through the help of coding wizardry to build software that rapidly tests at a large scale.
Our goal here is to understand not just if academic findings and global research is accurate, but how we can implement them within our tools.
We often find ourselves going back to basics here, applying software engineering principles to construct a proof of concept and get the results we want. Once we’ve done this, we’ll redesign it into a secure and reliable format that could be integrated with our own web crawlers for future use and exploration.
Once we’ve created a proof of concept, have gained the results we were looking for, and can envision it bringing value to our investigators without compromising performance or reliability, our next goal is to build a model that is as robust and high-level as possible – before presenting our findings back to our partners.
This may be done through trial and error while we’re testing approaches, or it may have evolved from a particular test that worked well as we critiqued academic papers. However we arrive at the solution, we make sure that it’s airtight and high-quality, before considering the possibility of integrating it with the CameraForensics platform.
Any R&D project that we work on isn’t without its own unique set of challenges and requirements to overcome, like navigating unusual and complex code, to communicating jargon-heavy processes to partners in transparent and accessible terms. While all R&D projects are unique in their difficulty and technical demands, we often encounter some similar challenges across all our projects.
Scope can be a difficult factor in any project but, within the world of R&D, predicting and estimating scope can be particularly challenging and likely to change. This is because it’s almost impossible to calculate the amount of time a specific project requires until you’ve dived into the code and understood the project from the inside out.
Predicting or gauging the likelihood of an R&D venture’s success is just as challenging as estimating and projecting scope, and for many of the same reasons.
Until both the academic research has been critiqued and the theories have been rigorously tested, the outcome of any R&D project cannot be guaranteed, which can be challenging for key stakeholders.
However, central to the CameraForensics methodology is that, even if a project doesn’t provide the results initially hoped for, it still hasn’t been a failure.
We operate from an ‘either you win, or you learn’ viewpoint, which ensures that even without the success that we initially aspired to reach, we still make progress through understanding current limitations or areas of improvement. In time, these findings will influence future projects, and will help us to continue driving positive change.
Research and development projects are essential to the continuation of our goal and vision to safeguard victims worldwide, helping us uncover not only new, but faster, more efficient, and more streamlined methods of uncovering vital insights.
In the past, our projects have enhanced our platform and opened up new intelligence to crawl and index, and we look forward to seeing what 2022 and beyond holds. Want to learn more? Visit our blog for our latest industry insights and news.