Martino, please tell us about your role as the Founder & CEO at Amped Software, and what led you to found the company.
Amped Software was derived from my master thesis of Electronic Engineering at the University of Trieste, Italy, in 2005. The thesis was done in cooperation with the Scientific Investigation Department of Carabinieri (Italian Military Police) in Parma; this is probably the most well known forensic lab in Italy, thanks also to an Italian CSI style TV show. Usually in academia, you always work in simulated situations created ad hoc in the lab, but from the very beginning, I worked on real footage coming from CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras.The result of my work was presented at some conferences of both the forensic and image processing fields (one even before graduating), where I discovered that there was a strong interest for my work. Some competitor products were already on the market at that time, but the common opinion was that they were very pricey, did not offer very advanced functions, were difficult to use, and did not withstand scrutiny in the courtroom.
I saw that there was room in the market for a new and better product and started developing it, first in my free time and then as a full time startup founder in 2008. The idea was to create “the Photoshop of investigations”, a single tool which could face all the tasks needed while working on images and videos during forensic activities and make it the world standard for this niche market. We don’t do any other type of products, we solely focus on solutions for forensic image and video analysis, nothing more, nothing less.
Currently I do a bit of everything at Amped Software, even though product development is what I like most (and what I think I am better at). I hope that I will find more time in the future to do this, but I doubt it!
Tell us more about some of Amped Software’s main products and how they are used in digital forensic investigations.
Our focus is to develop the most innovative, simple, easy-to-use and complete software for any image and video processing need related to security and investigations. Our flagship product is Amped FIVE, whose main purpose is to analyze and enhance images and videos of any format and content. Even though this product is mostly used for evidence that comes from CCTV, it has functions useful for fingerprints, crime scene photos, media downloaded from the Internet, and so on. What really sets this apart from the competitor products is that Amped FIVE automatically generates a technical report that explains in detail the scientific methodologies used in order for the result of the processing to be admissible in court.
At the end of last year, we launched Amped Authenticate, a software for evaluating the authenticity of an image, the presence of manipulations made with image editing software, and to verify the camera that was used to take the picture. There are very few products on the market for this task and none of them are as complete as ours. Sales have been bigger than expected; we see a growing demand for this kind of technology in the near future.
At the Forensics Europe Expo in May 2014, you spoke about validating images for use in criminal cases. Could you elaborate on how Amped Software helps investigators to do this?
It is not easy to know if a picture is an original or not. Until now, only a few experts have been able to verify if an image used in court was an original or if someone tampered with it. Analysts previously had to do this with self-made tools and very specialized scientific techniques. Today, the number of times people are asked to provide some insight on the authenticity of a photo is increasing at a drastic rate. The courts and savvy defense attorneys and prosecutors have begun to understand how easy it is to manipulate a digital picture. Amped Authenticate offers almost 30 different kinds of analysis that allow you to inspect a digital image from many different points of view: digital format, compression artifacts, image noise and cloned parts of the image. The task is pretty complicated since the analyst must be aware of a lot of theoretical concepts in order to properly interpret the output of the software, but we provide the state of the art research in a unique and easy to use package.
What would you say are the main forensic challenges surrounding image validation? How can they be addressed?
People expect to have an automatic software that will tell you which part of the image has been modified, with 100% reliability, for any kind of low resolution, highly compressed pictures downloaded from the web. Such a tool does not exist and the analyst must be aware of the limitations and consequences of the science he uses. There are some companies whose motto is “become a forensic expert in five minutes”. We don’t share that vision: we try to create the easiest tools, but we also try to educate our users in the proper way.
What would you like to see changed or improved in the digital forensics field?
I think that forensic experts who are always up to date with the latest changes and advancements in this field, those who are always experimenting and trying new tools and continually attend workshops and seminars, need to be valued more. I have met a lot of great people that truly are experts in the field but are not appreciated enough in their organization. Being a forensic expert is not an easy job so those that are really good at it should be respected.
What does the future hold for Amped Software? What can we expect to see in the next year or so?
Our main focus is improving our products. We continually listen to our customers, and adapt and update our solutions on a monthly basis in order to meet their evolving needs in digital image and video forensics. Our updates usually include new features, improvements and bug corrections. We have literally hundreds of new features on our to-do list and many of them are already at an advanced phase of development.
The main things we are working on now are:
– The decoding of proprietary video format from DVRs and CCTV cameras. This is one of today’s biggest problems for the forensic video analyst.
– Audio analysis (mainly related to the audio track of videos).
– Video authentication. This is a very new field and there is not very much in academic literature, but we are confident that we will find some solution. There is a very strong demand for this and currently the market does not offer anything at all.
For sure, you can trust that we’ll keep our focus on the forensic community and we will try our best to address the requests of our users.
Martino Jerian is the Founder & CEO at Amped Software, a company which develops software to analyse and enhance videos subject to investigation. Jerian specialises in image and video processing for forensic applications and has worked as a forensic image specialist and expert witness for several years.