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Mobile high-resolution 3D-Scanner and 3D data analysis for forensic evidence fast track to innovation

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - 3D-Forensics/FTI (Mobile high-resolution 3D-Scanner and 3D data analysis for forensic evidence fast track to innovation)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-06-30

3D-Forensics/FTI was an innovation project co-funded by the European Union under the “Fast Track To Innovation Pilot” work programme of the Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation. It started in July 2016 and was completed in June 2019. It made the last development steps to take the results from the previous 3D-Forensics research and development project which was completed in 2015 (also co-funded by the European Union but under the Framework Programme 7 (FP7) for research and technological development) through to market launch. The 3D-Forensics system is a mobile high resolution 3D-Scanner and 3D data analysis software to record and analyse footwear and tyre impressions left at crime scenes as well as the outsole of suspects’ shoes and/or tyre treads in 3D and colour with optical scanning technology. The traditional techniques to capture these traces are typically photography or dental plaster casting but both techniques have disadvantages, for example photographs contain no depth information and plaster casting is very time-consuming. Traditional techniques to analyse the traces are also not supported by software analysis tools.
In the first project year, a key element of work was focussed on developing the cooperation and receiving feedback from the project’s External Expert Tester Group (EETG). The EETG was composed of 5 police forces and one forensic institute committed to supporting and accompanying the project as representative end users, specifically to pilot test and where relevant and possible to validate the 3D-Forensics system.
EETG members received in a first step more detailed information about the results from the previous FP7 project and the objectives and planned activities within the FTI project. This was followed with demonstrations of the 3D-Forensics’ system, composed of both the 3D-Scanner and the 3D data analysis software. Building on the demonstrations, members of the EETG were then also trained to use the system independently, in order for them to be able to familiarise and test the initial prototype system on their own over periods of a number of months.
Feedback received from the EETG members and further forensics experts enabled us to refine and prioritise the 3D-Scanner hardware and 3D data analysis software development in the project.
In the second project year the focus was on developing advanced prototypes of the 3D-Scanner and 3D data analysis software, based on the earlier feedback, which had included the revision of some user requirements and updates of specifications. At the end of the second year the advanced prototype 3D-Scanners and 3D data analysis software were in preparation for provision to the EETG members for their test and evaluation. 5 advanced prototype 3D-Scanners were being manufactured. The advanced 3D analysis software had increased performance with additional analysis tools and a workflow which offered more flexibility to users and previous known bugs were fixed.
In this year the details of the strategy for validation of the system to be used in forensic processes was also determined taking into consideration relevant codes of practice and conduct; and guidance, particularity from the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the United Kingdom’s Forensic Science Regulator (FSR). This included determining the requirements/specifications most relevant for specific validation testing and the validation methods to be used. Activities then focussed on planning and preparing these tests within the consortium and with EETG members. This included the development of the validation plan and the design and manufacturing of specific test pieces for example to validate the resolution of the 3D-Scanner. Initial “developmental validation” was also started with the 3D-Scanner.
In the third year of the project the focus was on the testing and validation of the advanced prototype systems. The plans prepared in the previous period were implemented and updated as necessary. Testing and validation activities were carried out both internally by members of the consortium and by members of the EETG. Validation activities were focussed on investigating functionalities in the 3D-Forensics/FTI system which are new to the forensic application and which have direct impact on the reliability of the results. Forensic process results in criminal justice systems must be reliable and any limitations and/or caveats need to be known. Investigations included for example the resolution, accuracy and robustness of the 3D-Scanner to record traces as 3D point clouds and also the 3D-Scanner’s accuracy and robustness in mapping colour images to the 3D data. Validation testing of the 3D analysis software included for example the accuracy and robustness of registering multiple overlapping scans together and the resolution and specificity of the visualisation of 3D point clouds on PCs. Members of the consortium and the EETG worked together to carry out reproducibility tests which looked into for example the reproducibility of resolution and accuracy of the 3D-Scanner when the same measurements were carried out but by different operators with different systems in different locations. EETG members tested those requirements they considered most important for their organisations. One EETG member, for example, carried out an extensive comparative study with other methods to record footwear trace evidence in order to identify which method provides the best data quality.
Future users will be able to build their own validation tests on top of the developmental validation results, thereby reducing their effort for validation in their forensic process.
In addition, in the last year, some aspects of the 3D-Scanner where worked upon to provide more robust power management and housing and a re-worked control software. 3D analysis software updates were also released in response to identified bugs and for iterative updates and extensions to the on-line help.
In parallel to the close cooperation with the EETG, members of the consortium presented and demonstrated the system to many other police and other forensic service providers during bilateral meetings, workshops and conferences.
The plans for the use of the project results were developed. The consortium targets launching a product based on the system delivered in the project within 2019.
The progress beyond the state of the art is the provision of a system composed of a 3D-Scanner and 3D data analysis software which incorporates a workflow to record and analyse footwear and tyre track traces from crime scenes as well as the outsole of suspects’ shoes and/or tyre treads in 3D and colour to be used in criminal investigations and prosecutions, including as a basis for expert opinion evidence in court. The introduction of 3D-scanning technique in the recovery of footwear and tyre traces has high potential to replace classical methodologies such as photography and plaster casting. Further it can make the investigations more effective. This could also have the effect that footwear and tyre traces are recovered more often at crime scenes. This evidence could help to solve more and deter further crimes. The expected product has a high innovation potential and is commercially interesting for the participating SMEs.