Phase 2 which ran from September 2020 to July 2021 has now ended. During this Phase, contractors developed a first prototype based on the design documents delivered in Phase 1 and tested their solutions in lab conditions. Prototypes were tested and verified to provide a measure of the technical performance of each solution in a controlled environment and their readiness for pre-operational deployment. Described below are the three contractors and their innovative solutions from Phase 2.

 

ClydeHSI

The innovative solution

The measurement of trace evidence from a forensic point of view is transformed from qualitative assessment to quantitative assessment. The work done at Clyde HSI has been in the research and development of a new hyperspectral microscope system that can scan large areas (A4) of tape lift materials at spatial resolutions as high as 1μm per pixel as well as at high-speed. The approach we have taken is that of a fully modular construction using an infinity corrected microscope. This allows us to add the necessary optics and our hyperspectral cameras to provide the spatial and spectral resolutions needed across a wide spectral range (400 to 1700nm), VNIR 400 to 1000nm; NIR 950 to 1700nm) in one series of simultaneous measurements. It also allows the deployment of our components in existing microscope systems that users might have.

The system comprises of an autoloading system that can introduce a tape lift cassette in a fully automated manner and with very high spatial reproducibility. Up to six (6) cassettes can be loaded at one time and the system then activated to automatically measure each cassette in conventional microscopy mode, as well as in hyperspectral modes of transmission, reflection, luminescence and polarization. We have also developed a new hyperspectral Raman camera that offers class leading spectral resolution for materials identification using Raman imaging spectroscopy.

The advantage of our approach is optical efficiency and speed of action. This means that excellent signal-to-noise ratios can be made from the spectral data and that VNIR and NIR data are acquired simultaneously to save time and improve co-registration accuracy. In addition, all spectra are corrected for the optical properties of the system therefore the data is presented as “true” spectral imaging data that can be transferred across systems, laboratories, and institutes. The spectral correction of data measured using microscopes is a new and novel innovation result from this work.

Where exactly lies the innovation in the solution

Simultaneous dual hyperspectral imaging across very wide spectral ranges using a microscope platform is a key innovation in this system. Especially in that they offer measurement in all microscope modes including polarization due to the modular approach taken and the rigorous optical designs made during the development. Even though this development was originally designed for forensic application and is applicable to trace evidence quantification, it is already beginning to be used for other applications from art conservation to food research.

This is also the first time that a push-broom hyperspectral microscope has been developed for such evidence visualisation and identification purposes.

The degree of innovation

This work has resulted in several new products:

  • Raman Hyperspectral Camera,
  • Broad spectral range high performance hyperspectral microscope (400 to 1700nm),
  • High speed, high resolution hyperspectral scanning,
  • New hyperspectral acquisition, display and analysis software and database function.

In addition, this has led to opportunity to quantify both existing and new tape-lift trace evidence in a robust and rigorous manner using optical spectroscopy and the opportunity to reference these materials in a database of end-member spectra for comparison and processing needs.

 

AG SHUTTLE Toolkit Jena

The innovative solution

Since Phase 1 of the SHUTTLE process, we have pursued the goal of implementing the required specifications with an innovative approach. This consists of imaging the material of a trace carrier

  • completely,
  • with the required optical resolution and
  • in all required spectral modes.

The resulting image stacks are evaluated by means of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the classification results are stored in an “Enterprise Content Management System (ECM)”. This solution approach has the decisive advantage that all alleged traces are digitally recorded and in case of a follow-up examination (e.g. because newer material data are available), this can be carried out with the stored data. The solution to be presented here largely fulfils all required technical specifications and almost all technical parameters can be extended in consultation with the user.

Where exactly lies the innovation in the solution

All the above-mentioned main components – optics/mechanics, AI and ECM – are modular in design and can be expanded to include further components. Taken together, the innovations of our solution are:

  • A novel combination of optics/mechanics, a high-performance optical sensor, the AI and an ECM;
  • The result in the form of a full-page A4 scan and the thus complete recording of all traces including their optical and spectroscopic properties. This makes it possible to evaluate existing scans using different methods without having to digitize or measure again.
  • This result is achieved after less than 5h, whereby not all potential for speed optimisation has yet been exhausted.
  • Users can merge the knowledge of different persons on various locations to get best decision based on all available consolidated experience
  • But nevertheless users can use the toolkit for standalone use in connection with other proven tools.

The degree of innovation

We see our innovative solution as a totally new product:

  • It realises a completely new working process, as it delivers a complete scan of a track carrier in all required optical and spectral properties.
  • The product has been developed from scratch, using the latest or innovative components on both the hardware and software side.

 

TRACES Consortium

The innovative solution

The Spectral Multimodal Microscope for the Automated Recognition of Traces (SMMART) forensics toolkit developed by the TRACES consortium led by SPECTRICON, a high-tech European SME, improves radically all aspects of traces collection and analysis processes, namely:

  • Collection of evidence: The SMMART toolkit offers a novel thin recyclable lifting tape/backing system with special optical properties (highly transparent in the UV-Vis region, non-fluorescing, non-polarizing) that does not influence the nature and measurement of the collected samples.
  • Automated high content screening: Collected samples can be easily uploaded anywhere on the large scanning area of the TMM. The scanning area, corresponding to the surface of four A4 papers, thus accommodating an enormous volume of samples.
  • Multimodal operation: The user can configure the image acquisition over the following modes through a graphical user interface. Imaging modes include:
    • Transmission color, multispectral and hyperspectral imaging
    • Fluorescence with dual wavelength excitation and color, multispectral and hyperspectral imaging
    • Reflection color, multispectral and hyperspectral imaging
    • Polarization color and multispectral
  • Scanning and data acquisition: Scanning is fully automated and motorized without requiring human presence or intervention. The Digital Imaging and Spectroscopy (DIS) module translates, focuses, captures images at the configured modes while on the background the acquired data are stitched, tagged and stored in the database. It scans across an ultrawide spectral range (320-1100nm) with 5-10nm spectral resolution utilizing a proprietary, staring-type hyperspectral technology. Spatial resolution for all imaging modes is the industry highest, reaching 6 megapixels.
  • Automated analysis and identification of traces: A variety of classification algorithms are available for data processing and automated trace identification. Automated identification involves machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies.
  • Database: A sophisticated database allows for data storage and retrieval for remote locations, while at the same time securing data handling.

The SMMART forensics toolkit is designed to cover the needs of the microscopy department in a trace analysis forensics lab, with results having a high probability to be used in the court of law. By offering a straightforward sample collection, fast and accurate data acquisition & analysis as well as a complete data storage system the SMMART forensics toolkit stands today clearly ahead of the state-of-the-art both in routine and research forensics labs.

Where exactly lies the innovation in the solution

The key factors of innovation of the SMMART forensics toolkit are:

  1. new sophisticated, long working distance, ultrahigh resolution multimodal automated digital microscope
  2. tunable filter, staring-type hyperspectral imager offering real-time narrow band spectral imaging and a full spectrum per image pixel in a wide spectral range spanning Ultraviolet, Visible and Near Infrared bands
  3. real time, color, multispectral and hyperspectral imaging options in all offered imaging modes: transmission, reflection, fluorescence and polarization
  4. spectral birefringence mapping
  5. extra-large sample holding platform with the capacity of accepting panels with collected traces of a 600X420mm total area, with the scanning system and the imaging optics offering non-destructive analysis at the sub-micron level
  6. projection system projecting light-markings over the identified samples for navigating secondary sampling of traces eligible for subsequent analyses
  7. forensics grade traces lifting system, combining unobstructed optical analysis and collection/storage/maintenance of traces even in extreme environments
  8. advanced data analysis software suite implementing modern machine learning algorithms that process the acquired optical data (spectra, polarization states, etc.) and output fully automated (unsupervised) identification of traces over the total scanned area
  9. novel scheme for the storage of all acquired data and the results of the analyses in a highly versatile and secure database environment
  10. fully automated operation of the complete system without requiring technical background

The degree of innovation

TRACES Consortium offers a totally new product, the SMMART forensics toolkit, that will radically improve the collection and analysis of microscopic traces.

Looking at the state-of-the-art in forensics microscopy, the workflow of an operator or lab expert involves many actions (from the sample preparation up to the analysis and trace identification) making the microscopic examination of traces a cumbersome, time consuming and error prone process.

The SMMART forensics toolkit introduces a novel trace collection system, a high-end microscope and sophisticated algorithms offering the forensics lab expert a fast and easy-to-use microscopic trace analysis process.

All aforementioned elements are new and innovative and do not depend on existing products or services.