‘Crowded’ is a web-based application developed by the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (Dstl) that collates imagery of a particular location from a variety of media sources to provide an operator with real-time situational awareness.
Emergency services and other relevant agencies have detected or become aware of an event - a riot or an explosion, for instance - and its location or text associated with it. The ubiquity of mobile devices allows people to collect and upload media of the incident to the Internet, in real time. Crowded manages the interactions with online sources of media: Flickr; Instagram; YouTube; Twitter; and Transport for London traffic cameras, to retrieve imagery that is being uploaded at that point in time. In doing so, it aims to provide human operators with near-instantaneous ‘eyes-on’ from a variety of different perspectives.
The first instantiation of Crowded was implemented as a series of integrated web-services with the aim of rapidly understanding whether the approach was viable. In doing so, it demonstrated how non-traditional, open sources can be used to provide a richer current intelligence picture than can be obtained alone from classified sources. The development of Crowded also explored how open source technology and cloud-based services can be used in the modern intelligence and security environment to provide a multi-agency Common Operating Picture to help achieve a co-ordinated response.
The lessons learned in building the prototype are currently being used to design and develop a second version, and identify options and priorities for future development.