Using Technology To Get Results: Think Outside The Silo

by Johann Hofmann, Griffeye

In an article series of three, published in the Interpol Newsletter, Griffeye explores the possibilities of technology in digital media investigations. In this second article, Johann Hofmann, Director & Head of Griffeye, talks about the limitations for investigators working in silos.

We explore what happens if investigators can’t access, use or share critical information because they are limited by their tools and systems. How can they get out of their silo to get better and quicker case results?

What are silos and how do they trap investigators?

Working in silos is a well-recognized problem within many businesses, organizations and information systems. These silos end up isolating people and projects, negatively affecting workflow and the chance of success. Our experience at Griffeye is that silos are also one of the main obstacles for law enforcement investigators and their teams as they look to share the workload, information and expertise – and ultimately solve cases.

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So what exactly are we dealing with? We can break it down to three common types of silos that investigators and their teams often seem to experience:

1. The User Silo 
It’s an all too familiar story. A single user is left on their own with all the case information, specialist experience and heavy workload. Not to mention all the responsibility and stress of achieving a vital result under time pressure, even when trying to solve the most horrific crimes such as identifying victims of child sexual abuse.

2. The Tool Silo
Over just a few short decades, our digital society has evolved at a mind-boggling rate. Digital crime has kept the same dizzying pace. The seized data was once often just small amounts and quite basic in shape and form, meaning one or two computer forensic tools could do the job. But the digital information seized today is very different. A whole range of specialized tools is required to achieve results.

Unfortunately, the concept of interoperability (i.e. tools sharing data) is not something that has been encouraged by the majority of the tool providers so far. So what happens to the case and your workflow when the information is stuck in one tool? A tool silo means you aren’t going to get the results your hard work deserves – and can even mean crimes going unsolved.

3. The Information Silo
This is a combination of the two previous silos. With data that is stored in the tool rather than centrally, and is difficult to export and share with other users, there is even less ability to share information, specialist experience and workload. There’s even the risk of information being lost as you share it from one tool to another. The result? Increased stress and frustration as cases are harder and take longer to solve. And perhaps many cases never get fully closed because you are not detecting all the clues and connecting all the dots.

How do investigators get back in control?

Technology providers have a responsibility to move away from business models that close the users into proprietary tools and formats, to formats that allow integration between tools. A genuine solution would give investigators the best, fully integrated tools, along with the easy ability to share information, experience and workload with other specialists. This will let them escape the silo for a far smoother and more effective workflow – and, most importantly, far better and quicker results.

Setting a new standard

A collaborative and integrated approach that will help teams move through their cases quickly is as important as building great tools in the first place. A great example of this is how Project VIC works together with their partners and suppliers. Here, the open approach to helping each other has resulted in seamless, automatic integration between technologies, letting investigators tell a complete evidence story and uncover the truth. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.

It’s time to say goodbye to the silo once and for all – and embrace the opportunities to share the load and work better together. As technology providers and investigators.

About The Author

Johann Hofmann, Director & Head of Griffeye, has more than ten years’ experience in applied image and video analysis gained in the specialist field of crime investigations. Griffeye specializes in designing digital media intelligence solutions for law enforcement agencies and digital forensic investigators. Working across academia and law enforcement, Johann has gained a deep and thorough understanding of law enforcement operations, its unique requirements and how research can address the relevant issues.

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