U.K. researchers to develop new communication signals analysis

Published 13 September 2007

The extreme risks and rapid time frames associated with terrorist activities make it difficult to gather evidence that might prevent an attack or lead to successful prosecution; analyzing communication signals with with forensic psychology techniques should help

Police and security services will benefit from new research aiming to improve the investigation of criminal and terrorist activity. Scientists at The University of Nottingham are collaborating with researchers at four other universities to develop techniques which combine technologies for location based games and analyzing communication signals with forensic psychology techniques for detecting deception during interviews with suspects. Professor Mike Jackson, Director of the Centre for Geospatial Science (CGS) and Associate Professor Gary Priestnall, will lead research on the positioning and tracking of mobile devices and the systems architecture which will host the location-based games that will be used by the consortium. Dr. Bai Li of the Computer Science and Information Technology Department will undertake games design and data analysis research. The project, led by Lancaster University, has received £900,000 of funding from the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to investigate whether deception can be identified reliably from suspects’ movements, communications, and behaviors.

The three-year project will deploy and develop technologies which allow the tracking of individuals and the monitoring of communications between team members. Researchers will test the technology using “treasure hunt”-style exercises. One team representing the suspects will compete against another team representing the police. Mock interviews with team participants will then take place in which evidence from tracking and communications is presented to interviewers. The interactions will be studied by psychologists and analyzed by data-mining specialists to determine when the team participants are applying deception or when the account of their activities is true. The researchers will also conduct interviews to assess public awareness of, and response to, monitoring and surveillance in counter-terrorism.

Professor Tom Ormerod from Lancaster University, the project’s principal investigator, said: “The extreme risks and rapid time frames associated with terrorist activities add to the difficulty of gathering evidence that might prevent an attack or lead to successful prosecution. It is vital that the police and security services are provided with tools that help them make reliable decisions about who to treat as a suspect and whether there is sufficient evidence to secure a prosecution, since immense damage can be caused by wrongful arrests based on misinterpretations of weak evidence.”

The other universities involved in the research are Leicester (Forensic psychology