Data Analysis: Finding Boston Bombers and What it Means for Financial Services


By Suzanne Savage
Screen-Shot-2013-06-04-at-11.19.13-AM-300x289The incredibly sophisticated use of data jumped into the news in April, but not for the reasons you might think. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the country was reminded of the tremendous amount of data that is collected every minute of every day. Law enforcement was able to collect thousands of photos and video recordings of the marathon and its physical surroundings within 24 hours of the explosions. This unstructured data came from many sources: Everyday folks capturing the event on hand-held cameras and cell phones, cameras from retail, residential and commercial locations as well as myriad other ‘street’ cams. While the amount of data may not come as a surprise, the speed with which it was analyzed might. Once the bomb’s location was discovered on video, it is likely that experts used facial recognition technology to scan all germane video footage and photographs to assemble images of potential suspects from all the collected data. The results were then compared to a number of databases containing citizen’s faces—like the ones kept by law enforcement agencies, motor vehicle departments, colleges and universities, and U.S. passport offices—to try and identify the bombers by name and location. Once narrowed down, you can be sure that experts analyzed images captured at airports, subway stations, and bus terminals for matches. Where else did law enforcement look for clues? Social media, of course. All Face book posts twitter tweets, and other comments posted on the internet originating within a one mile radius and in the 24 hours before and after the race were collected for analysis, providing more investigative avenues to pursue. Stunning.

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