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GCN : July 2015
[BrieFing] NIST.GOV Although tattoos are often an outward expression of a person’s character, to the participants of a challenge sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, body art can quite literally help confirm a person’s identity. Forensic analysis of tattoos is impor- tant to law enforcement activities such as solving crimes, identifying victims and gathering intelligence on gangs, according to NIST. But tattoo recogni- tion is difficult because the composi- tion and patterns of the images vary widely. The current method of catalog- ing tattoos relies on a keyword-based process, which can be complex and subjective depending on the design of a tattoo and the description of the examiner. The goal of the Tattoo Recognition Technology–Challenge (Tatt-C) is to advance research into automated image-based tattoo-recognition tech- nology that focuses on retrieving and matching tattoos from still images captured by law enforcement agencies. In a preliminary trial of exist- ing tattoo-recognition software, the FBI’s Biometric Center of Excellence (BCOE) provided thousands of images to NIST, which then asked the six organizations that participated in the challenge to assess the capability of image-based tattoo-recognition algo- rithms in the following situations: • Visually similar or related tattoos on different subjects. • Different images of the same tattoo on the same subject over time. • A small region of interest contained in a larger image. • Visually similar or related tattoos in different types of images such as sketches, scanned print, computer graphics or natural images. • An image that might or might not contain a tattoo. “The state-of-the-art algorithms fared quite well in detecting tattoos, finding different instances of the same tattoo from the same subject over time and finding a small part of a tattoo within a larger tattoo,” said NIST computer scientist Mei Ngan, who organized the challenge. But she added that two areas could use further research: detecting visu- ally similar tattoos on different people and recognizing a tattoo image from a sketch or sources other than a photo. “Improving the quality of tattoo im- ages during collection is another area that may also improve recognition accuracy,” Ngan said. In addition to discussing the trial’s initial findings, Tatt-C participants covered the use of image-based tattoo matching in operations, identified ways to improve tattoo recognition and discussed the next steps NIST might take in that area. The Tatt-C participants were Compass Technical Consulting; the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, Sys- tem Technologies and Image Exploita- tion; the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission; MITRE; MorphoTrak; and Purdue University. Government researchers have been working on automated tattoo-recogni- tion technology since 2012, when the BCOE issued a request for informa- tion on the best way to build a tattoo database. • NIST explores new tech for tattoo recognition BY DEREK MAJOR LUCIANMILASAN/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM The National Institute of Standards and Technology is refining a tattoo-recognition system that could, among other challenges, identify a visually similar tattoo on two different people. 6 GCN JULY 2015 • GCN.COM 0715gcn_006-010.indd 6 7/1/15 1:06 PM