Technology Proves its Value in Wake of Boston Bombings

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Bill Kleyman is a virtualization and cloud solutions architect at MTM Technologies where he works extensively with data center, cloud, networking, and storage design projects. You can find him on LinkedIn. Also, you can find more of his regular contributions here, on Data Center Knowledge

Bill-Kleyman-tnBill Kleyman
MTM Technologies

In light of this week’s events in Boston and elsewhere, one of the strongest statements we can live by is “the good guys will always outnumber the bad ones.” While some people have said that these types of events bring people to live close to the edge (as in You Only Live Once or YOLO), the reality is that these horrible events actually bring people closer together and deepen our appreciation of each others’ humanity.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings – which brought many reminders of 9/11 – we saw a new hero emerge:  technology. The fast responses of medical professionals already onsite likely saved numerous lives. Furthermore, those runners that finished the race and then continued on to donate blood at the local hospital should be praised as well. The human element, no doubt, played a vital role in minimizing casualties and helping people get medical attention quickly. Still, as the smoke clears and we begin to analyze and understand the situation, law enforcement and the officials working on this case have some interesting new tools at their disposal.

Technology: The ‘Good Guy’ Multiplier

According to Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, the site of the bombing and the surrounding area – Bolyston Street which serves as the finish line of the Boston Marathon –  is one of the most well-photographed and documented areas in the country. Although the crime scene is complex, the use of technology can help pinpoint the line of events that led to this horrible incident. In 2001, the prevalence of recording and digital equipment wasn’t anywhere as high as it is today. On April 15, 2013, a lot more “eyes” were watching the course of the day unfold. Let’s look at some of the areas where technology was involved in the event and aftermath.

  • IT consumerization. This is a common marketing term; along with BYOD. But the true magnitude of IT consumerization was on display on Monday. Because so many people have cell phones or other devices with cameras, thousands of high-quality photos were taken from almost every angle and vantage point during the Boston Marathon. People were on the ground, in buildings, at the finish line and everywhere in between. Within minutes, photos of the bombing were circulated and analyzed. These digital photos were used to piece together a very difficult puzzle. Modern phones are capable of taking 8-12 megapixel images. Compare that with phones from 2002 which could only do 0.3MP. As people took videos and photos documenting the event, these digital images are higher resolution than ever before, capturing more image and allowing details to potentially be used by authorities to find those responsible.
  • Everyone is a “digital technician.” In the aftermath, the numerous high-quality images being produced from the event have helped law enforcement in their efforts to bring light to the situation, and citizens are helping to analyze them. All across the web, amateur digital technicians are examining photos and processing individual video frames to catch inconsistencies. Just like law enforcement, these technicians have an eagle-eye for technology and can actually help officials pinpoint irregularities. Cloud computing and social media have been busy sharing pictures; discussing analysis of the event and helping everyone involved understand what happened.
  • CCTV and surveillance. As runners approached the finish line, they made their way through 26 miles of very public road. Along the way, there were hundreds of cameras and CCTV instances where live video was recorded and documented. A department store’s high-quality outdoor security camera has already helped police identify people of interest. The ability to zoom into a face or feature is paramount to helping bring those responsible to justice. These technologies are becoming more and more prevalent where high-quality feeds are capable of doing so much more than ever before. As the picture becomes clearer, officials will use every single frame from every source  that they can. This means that if the perpetrators took public transportation, video surveillance from around the city can help show the footsteps.
  • Social media and the cloud. The events of April 15were captured both on video and, simultaneously, on the Internet. Social media reports were posted as quickly as professional reporters brought the news on TV, radio or Internet. Twitter, Facebook, and other heavily used sites became hot spots for conversation. Social media served as a way to determine if friends and family on the ground were alright. In fact, I found out that a dear friend who was only 2 blocks away from the blast was alright – via a Facebook update. Furthermore, valuable pictures, recordings, and new vantage points have helped people put together the course of events that happened that day. Above anything else, social media (and cloud computing) helped bring people together. Whether it was words of support, an image of a friend, or just a though posted on Facebook, technology pushed aside human differences and the sharing through social networks brought everyone closer together.

Today’s always-on, always-connected world strives to bring people and information closer together. During these types of events, technologists all over the world offer their support and work to utilize technological advancements to help people progress. Everyone from pro photographers to ordinary people with their high megapixel smartphone cameras can help authorities solve one of the most complex crime scenes in recent history. During these difficult times, the IT community has continued to offer its support to anyone who needs it.

As a technologist, journalist and writer for Data Center Knowledge – I say with my whole heart – Boston, we stand with you.

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