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Revolution in forensic video investigation

Videntifier Technologies is an Icelandic company whose technology helps international police forces investigating child abuse and terrorist cases. Here’s the story of the company’s growth – and how participating in Eurostars and E!nnoVest helped. 

"When we founded our company in 2008 Iceland's economy was on the brink of collapse and it was very tough to survive the first four crisis years", says Videntifier CEO Herwig Lejsek. "However with the help of family and friends, Reykjavík University and our first customer, the Reykjavík Metropolitan Police, we brought the company to the next stage.”

In 2011 Videntifier started its first Eurostars project (E!6697 FIIA) together with UK company Forensic Pathways and the French research institute IRISA. At roughly the same time they managed to raise $300 000  of seed investment and a year later - via an E!nnovest investment forum - another investment by Dutch angel investor Jan Dunnink. “The real breakthrough was though when Videntifier was selected as the technology provider for Interpol's Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database at Interpol in June 2012," says Lejsek.

Since then Videntifier's business has been constantly growing and finally reached profitability in early 2016. As of today Videntifier has been deployed to many major law enforcement organisations throughout the world, e.g the US National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, the US Department of Homeland Security, the Swedish National Police, EUROPOL, the UK Home Office, the Korean National Police and the Indian Home Office.

The technology

Videntifier’s technology combines high-end computer vision techniques with blazingly fast database search.  It allows digital investigators in law enforcement to automatically compare large amount of visual content in a fraction of a time it would take a human, and thus quickly identifies visual evidence relevant for the investigation. Videntifier focuses on two use cases in particular: (i) the identification of victims, perpetrators and the location of a crime and (ii) supporting the triage process when scanning seized storage devices for illegal content. 

At the core of the Videntifier video and image identification system is a very large database of visual fingerprints extracted from the content of interest. What content is of interest depends on the individual use case and the application domain, but typically the numbers range somewhere between 10 and 100 million images, plus a few million video files.  For law enforcement purposes the content of interest usually contains collections of known and verified illegal material, the so-called black-list dataset, but also collections for criminal investigation or irrelevant material - the so-called white-list dataset - typically consisting of commercially produced movies and TV show content.

A visual fingerprint is a representation of a single point within an image or video frame capturing mathematical characteristics related to contrast and shape. A set of these fingerprints capture the coarse shapes of the structures inside an image. The fingerprints are organized in a database index which can provide very fast visual comparison, even if the scanned video has been distorted or compressed or if the colours and contrasts have been changed. The system is also very good in identifying similar backgrounds and identical locations and can also find malicious content which a suspect has tried to hide within another video.

New applications, new markets

Following a $ 2 M Series A investment in 2013/14 Videntifier has been expanding its business focus even beyond the law enforcement domain. The new spin-off idea is focusing on copyright protection and content monetisation in particular. Yet again, Videntifier found SME partners and got funding through the Eurostars programme. It currently leads a new project (E!10317 EVALA) together with two Bulgarian companies, Semantic Interactive and Ontotext, with the goal of developing a platform for automatic monitoring valuable content assets (videos, images, but also textual works) on the internet. 

The platform will provide intelligence on the distribution, the access, the public opinion and the market success of such assets. Just recently the consortium on-boarded SkyUnion Media Technology Co Ltd., a Chinese SME, focusing on copyright protection and monetisation of digital assets within the People's Republic of China. With inviting SkyUnion into the Eurostars consortium the project not only benefits from a committed testing and evaluation partner, but also provides access to additional funding for the European parties and an entry to the huge but inherently complex Chinese market. 

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