Integrated software solution for the 3-dimensional capture and analysis of footwear evidence

Lead Research Organisation: Bournemouth University
Department Name: Faculty of Science and Technology

Abstract

Footwear impressions provide a source of evidence within a range of criminal investigations including gathering of criminal intelligence. A potential suspect will leave foot or footwear impressions en route to, at and while exiting, a crime scene. This not only allows a sequence of events to be determined but may also link a suspect to a scene if their footwear is distinctive, for example as a consequence of damage or wear. Indoors crime scene officers deal mainly with two-dimensional traces; impressions left by a foot tracking mud, blood or other bodily fluids. Three-dimensional tracks, the proverbial footprint in the flower bed, are common at outdoor scenes. Traditional methods for the collection of three-dimensional traces consist of photography and casting, supported by two-dimensional pattern recognition that can type a footwear sole to a particular make or model of shoe. Three-dimensional imaging is now available as an alternative or complementary option, particularly as algorithms for digital photogrammetry have improved dramatically in recent years allowing easy operational deployment. No expensive three-dimensional scanners are required, only that a crime scene photographer take a few moments to collect additional oblique photographs of footwear impression. Consequently, three-dimensional analyses of footwear impressions are now already possible at a routine operational level, but remain the exception rather than the norm.

As part of previous NERC grant NE/H004246/1 into ancient footprints we developed a range of methods and freeware to facilitate the three-dimensional capture and analysis of footprints. Engaging with police as part of the Impact Plan demonstrated the interest and potential of such methods to enhance the analysis of three-dimensional trace evidence especially by allowing statistical analysis of differences between tracks and/or footwear. Currently comparison is done primarily via visual inspection rather than by quantitative and statistical comparison. Working with our Project Partners we propose to employ a software engineer to draw on this research, practice and existing code to create a single integrated software application for the capture, analysis and presentation of three-dimensional footwear evidence which will allow routine operational deployment by police and forensic agencies both in the UK and overseas. This will change the fundamental cost-benefit ratio associated with the collection of this type of evidence, such that three-dimensional imaging can become the norm rather than the exception. Software of this sort needs to be available to all parties involved in forensic jurisprudence - the defence as well as the prosecution - without handicap of cost. As such our proposed software will be made available as freeware rather than commercialised, which will also assist with user adoption. This knowledge translation has the potential to contribute to criminal investigations and in the safeguarding of society.

Planned Impact

This project arises directly from the Impact Plan associated with NERC NE/H004246/1 on ancient footprints one of the objectives of which was to raise awareness of three-dimensional imaging of tracks with law enforcement agencies. The information and feedback obtained via this route in particular from the Metropolitan Police led directly to this proposed Innovation Project. The core outcome for law enforcement and forensic agencies will be to change the cost-benefit ratio around the routine operational use of three-dimensional imaging of footwear evidence. This we believe will in turn lead to an increased use of such trace evidence in crime detection, prevention and intelligence gathering thereby benefiting society at large. This will be evidenced by rapid user adoption of the freeware in the first instance (interim impact) and secondly by feedback from the user community to document the actual impact on crime detection and prevention. A clause within the freeware license will require users to provide feedback on request for impact monitoring purposes. In terms of reach our initial target is UK police and forensic agencies, however the reach is not limited geographically and we will subsequently market and target our freeware at overseas crime and forensic agencies. Footwear evidence is currently a relatively small part of the range of trace evidence used in criminal investigations and therefore the significance will initially be modest, however by changing the fundamental cost-benefit ratio around footwear evidence our product will lead to an increased weighting given to footwear evidence in criminal investigations thereby increasing the significance and impact of our freeware over time.

We also identify the general public and school and college students as potential beneficiaries of this project, along with future generations of forensic practitioners. The product will improve education and research around footwear evidence. Additionally, we aim to use a participatory approach to sourcing the data required for the machine learning component of the project, which, although a supplement to the core product, is nonetheless an exciting opportunity to enhance the range of outcomes. The benefit and outcome here is to the wider STEM agenda and given the popular potency of forensics, participatory science and artificial intelligence, we believe that the impact here could be considerable. One of the key requirements of machine-learning algorithms is data, in this case multiple footwear tracks with placed landmarks. We will engage university students on forensic programmes at Bournemouth and Liverpool John Moores universities to collect this data. More importantly, however we will run workshops and 'field-days' at the Bournemouth University outdoor crime facility on the Trigon Estate in Dorset to engage school children in creating, capturing and analysing their own tracks thereby contributing data to the project and participating in a STEM inspiring activity. We will support this activity by a strong 'engagement' element to the projects website, supported by a social media campaign, and coordinate this activity via two Summer Undergraduate Research Assistantships (URAs) funded by Bournemouth University as a direct contribution to this project (6 weeks, Full Time). URA's are paid posts that allow students to work with academics on live research projects gaining experience for their own research, while also fuelling future research aspiration.

The outcome for those engaged in education/research into vertebrate tracks will be the provision of a community-wide platform for the collection and analysis of track data improving methodological and analytical standards and data comparability. This academic outcome will support research into ancient environments and into the biomechanics both of extant and extinct animals.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Our work on fossil footprints has been supported over the last few years by the in-house development of bespoke software tools for the 3D analysis of footprints. The innovation project aimed to translate this software into a tool for use by forensic services dealing with 3D footwear evidence. The software was released in July 2016 and details can be found at www.DigTrace.co.uk. User trials continue with two UK forensic providers, as does collaboration with the Metropolitan Police and Bluestar. Bluestar are responsible for maintaining the UK's footwear database. We now have a KTP with Bluestar which will see DigTrace implemented as part of the UK National Footwear Database. A number of additional software products have been developed to support DigTrace. DigTrace has also found a wide use in vertebrate ichnology (study of tracks and traces) and has been applied to the study of dinosaur and human tracks. The continuing dissemination work around the project has been supported in 2016-17 by a HEIF Award from Bournemouth University and wide a number of dissemination events have already been undertaken and are on-going.
Exploitation Route At the core of our work is the creation of 3D point clouds via photogrammetry, this creates a 3D model in our case of a footprint. We are currently working to extend this to other forensic applications such as soft tissue injuries and tool marks. One of the limitations to adoption of DigTrace by the user community is the quality of IT infrastructure in UK police forces. We have a proposal pending with Innovate UK to web-enable DigTrace to over come this and also develop the underlying technology into 3D imaging and tracks via CCTV footage.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

URL http://www.digtrace.co.uk
 
Description The aim of the project was to develop freeware for use by forensic services. This led to the launch of DigTrace (www.digtrace.co.uk) which is being user tested by police and forensic units throughout the UK. We are also in discussions with the FBI and various Sate Police/Forensic Units in the USA. In January 2018 we were awarded a KTP to develop this work further and embed it within the UK National Footwear Database run by Bluestar Software on behalf of the UK Home Office. We failed to recruit to this KTP and it was re-awarded in 2019. The product has also been used in a number of significant scientific studies. In general it has unlocked a wider collaboration with Police and Forensic units both in the UK and Overseas and we are now working on a range of additional projects.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description The role of digital technology in policing, including take-up, risks and barriers to use
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Knowledge Transfer Partnership
Amount £128,588 (GBP)
Funding ID KTP011044 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 03/2021
 
Description Forensic Footwear 
Organisation Home Office
Department Home Office Scientific Development Branch
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Both organisations are project partners of the NERC Innovation Award and are actively helping to develop the forensic software being developed.
Collaborator Contribution Contacts, know-how and support.
Impact The software development is on going, due for completion in June 2016.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Forensic Footwear 
Organisation National Crime Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Both organisations are project partners of the NERC Innovation Award and are actively helping to develop the forensic software being developed.
Collaborator Contribution Contacts, know-how and support.
Impact The software development is on going, due for completion in June 2016.
Start Year 2015
 
Title DigTrace 
Description DigTrace is the primary outcome of the NERC Innovation Award 'Integrated software solution for the 3-dimensional capture and analysis of footwear evidence' . There are two versions: (1) DigTrace Pro provides an integrated solution for the capture and analysis of 3D footwear evidence; and (2) DigTrace Academic provides an integrated solution for the capture and analysis of 3D geological traces (i.e. vertebrate ichnology). 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2016 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This product is being used by UK Police Forces in user trials and is being widely used by the academic community. 
URL http://www.digtrace.co.uk
 
Title DigTrace Importer 
Description This is a small tool useful in research and practice when dealing with the import of a large number of 3D landmark files. A manual is available at www.digtrace.co.uk 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2016 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This has been widely used particularly by the research community using DigTrace. 
 
Title DigTrace Mobile App 
Description This is a smart phone App which runs on both Android and IOS and helps with the collection of digital images for use within DigTrace. Manuals and further details can be obtained at www.digtrace.co.uk. http://www.digtrace.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Photosort-and-Photologger-Manual.pdf 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact This has been downloaded widely by the DigTrace user community. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/digtrace-photo-logger/id1139152757?mt=8 https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.co.digtrace.logger&hl=en_GB 
URL https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/digtrace-photo-logger/id1139152757?mt=8
 
Title DigTrace Photosort 
Description This works with DigTrace Photo Logger and helps with the collection of data using DigTrace. More details are available at www.digtrace.co.uk 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2016 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This has been widely downloaded and used by the DigTrace user community. 
URL http://www.digtrace.co.uk
 
Title Track Transformer 
Description This is a tool for the comparison of vertebrate tracks. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2015 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This software is part of the code being developed in the current NERC Innovation award and was central to the publication Bennett et al. (2016) on the Laetoli tracks in Tanzania. 
 
Description (e)Science News - Ancient Footprints Can Help Us Understand Modern-Day Crime Scenes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 16 April 2015
(e)Science News - Ancient Footprints Can Help Us Understand Modern-Day Crime Scenes

http://esciencenews.com/sources/scientific.blogging/2015/04/16/ancient.footprints.can.help.us.understand.modern.day.crime.scenes
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Ancient footprint tramples on theory of human evolution The Times 04/09/2017  
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact New paper interview and publications (both print and online) following publication of paper in Proceeding of the Geologists' Association in 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Ancient footprints reveal lifestyle of children 700,000 years age; The Independent (Web) 15/02/2018  
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact News paper interview and report following publication of paper in Scientific Reports on: Ancient footprints reveal lifestyle of children 700,000 years age
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/ancient-footprints-children-lifestyle-700000-years-ago-a8...
 
Description Archaeology - Proof in the Prints 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 13 June 2016
Archaeology - Proof in the Prints

http://www.archaeology.org/issues/221-1607/trenches/4545-trenches-tanzania-hominin-footprints
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description BBC Breakfast July 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Live interview plus pre-recorded segment about the work of DigTrace part of the Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Culture24 - Archaeologists' ancient footprint research to help in police forensic investigations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 16 April 2015
Culture24 - Archaeologists' ancient footprint research to help in police forensic investigations

http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/archaeology/art524138-archaeologists-ancient-footprint-research-to-help-in-police-forensic-investigations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Daily Echo - How Bournemouth researchers are using cutting edge archaeological techniques to help investigate modern-day crime scenes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 20 April 2015
Daily Echo - How Bournemouth researchers are using cutting edge archaeological techniques to help investigate modern-day crime scenes

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/12899783.How_Bournemouth_researchers_are_using_cutting_edge_archaeological_techniques_to_help_investigate_modern_day_crime_scenes/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Daily Echo - How dinosaur footprints led BU to develop a tool that could put criminals behind bars 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 24 November 2016
Daily Echo - How dinosaur footprints led BU to develop a tool that could put criminals behind bars

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/14883787.How_dinosaur_footprints_led_BU_to_develop_a_tool_that_could_put_criminals_behind_bars/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Daily Mail - A giant leap for evolution: Footprints prove our ancestors walked upright 3.6 million years ago 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 24 April 2016
Daily Mail - A giant leap for evolution: Footprints prove our ancestors walked upright 3.6 million years ago

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3561112/One-giant-leap-evolution-Footprints-reveal-human-ancestors-walked-just-like-3-6-million-years-ago.html
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Dinosaurs to Forensics, Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We have been selected competitively to take part as one of 22 exhibits in this years Summer Science Exhibition at the Royal Society. This hugely prestigious event attracts over 10,000 visitors each year and exhibit webpages receive the order of 200,000 hits during the week. The event runs in July 2017.

We are showcasing DigTrace (www.digtrace.co.uk) using a combination of dinosaur and forensic footprints.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2017/07/summer-science/
 
Description Discovery Magazine January 2018 - Top 100 Discoveries/Stories in 2017; Cretan Footprints were #8 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discovery reported the Cretan Footprints after publication in September 2017 and listed in a third article in 2018 as #8 in importance in their top 100 stories.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Footprints on the Beach 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The event was run and funded as part of NERC Summer Science Festival. We conducted interactive workshops and data collection on Bournemouth Beach over two day in July 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/nerc-footprints/
 
Description Footwear Capture in Custody Suites 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting with Bluestar and Julia Henderson (DCI, MPS) with respect to collaborating with both on Tread Finder - the development of in-custody footwear capture technology and pattern matching software which has been developed by Bluestar. This was a major step forward to developing an integrated UK solution for footwear evidence.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Forensic - Ancient Footprints Can Help to Understand Modern-Day Crime Scenes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 16 April 2015
Forensic - Ancient Footprints Can Help to Understand Modern-Day Crime Scenes

http://www.forensicmag.com/news/2015/04/ancient-footprints-can-help-understand-modern-day-crime-scenes
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Forensic Europe Expo 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 3 May 2017
Forensic Europe Expo
Latest tools and techniques in forensic science: from crime scene to courtroom Conference, London

Forensics Europe Expo is the only international exhibition & conference that showcases the latest equipment and services as well as providing the definitive source of education, best practice, training and networking

https://www.forensicseuropeexpo.com/2017-fee-conference/digtrace-three-dimensional-analysis-of-footwear-traces

http://www.counterterrorbusiness.com/features/putting-crime-under-microscope
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Forensic Science Technology Showcase, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Forensic Science Technology Showcase is an annual highlight for the Forensic Science Special Interest Group. This mixture of presentations and exhibition regularly attracts over 100 delegates, including forensic science service providers, scientific support managers and Home Office staff. We were invited to participate at the request of the Home Office.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description From dinosaurs to crime scenes - how our new footprint software can bring the past to life 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On the 31 October 2016 we published a piece in 'The Conversation' entitled From dinosaurs to crime scenes - how our new footprint software can bring the past to life. This article has been read over 5,870 times and 45% of the readers where from the US (16% UK). The article was widely picked in other media and has lead to the submission of a book proposal at the request of Princeton University Press.

http://theconversation.com/from-dinosaurs-to-crime-scenes-how-our-new-footprint-software-can-bring-the-past-to-life-67947
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://theconversation.com
 
Description Modelling Human Evolution 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The event consisted of a two hour workshop and lecture held as part of Bournemouth University's Festival of Learning in July 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Newly discovered 6m-year-old Cretan footprints stolen - finder writes about how we must protect precious sites, The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article in The Conversation following theft of the Cretan Footprints. This has been read over 11,500 times.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://theconversation.com/newly-discovered-6m-year-old-cretan-footprints-stolen-finder-writes-abou...
 
Description Our controversial footprint discovery suggests human-like creatures may have roamed Crete nearly 6m years ago, The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article entitled 'Our controversial footprint discovery suggests human-like creatures may have roamed Crete nearly 6m years ago' in The Conversation following publication in September 2017 of the paper on Cretan Footprints. It has been read over 105,000 times.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://theconversation.com/our-controversial-footprint-discovery-suggests-human-like-creatures-may-...
 
Description Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Royal Society Summer Exhibition is probably the premier public engagement activity for science in the UK. Estimated audience for 2017 was over 11,000. Selection is on a competitive basis. The event was covered by BBC Breakfast TV and Skye News.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2017/summer-science-exhibition/
 
Description Sky News 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview about DigTrace as part of our Royal Society Summer Exhibition 'Dinosaurs to Forensics'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Tendencias cientificas - Resolver crímenes como si fuera una búsqueda de huellas antiguas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 16 April 2015
Tendencias cientificas - Resolver crímenes como si fuera una búsqueda de huellas antiguas
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Thief legs it with ancient footprints The Times 16/09/2017  
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview and news report (Online, Print both UK and Irish Times) on the theft of the Cretan Footprints.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description What ancient footprints can tell us about what it was like to be a child in prehistoric times, The Conversation February 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article in the conversation entitled 'What ancient footprints can tell us about what it was like to be a child in prehistoric times ' following publication of our Scientific Reports paper in February 2018 so far this has been read 31,000 times.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://theconversation.com/what-ancient-footprints-can-tell-us-about-what-it-was-like-to-be-a-child...
 
Description Wired - Crimes of the future will be solved by Robo-CSIs, smell and VR 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 19 November 2016
Wired - Crimes of the future will be solved by Robo-CSIs, smell and VR

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/crime-scene-technology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016