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Thursday, October 3, 2013

An open letter to the marketing and management staff at Ocean Systems

Call me a troll, if you will. But, I had to say something. My previous post on the subject caused a little ripple in the community. Since that time, I've seen quite a few copies of the same advertisement for the Ocean Systems Field Kit. You know the one that I'm talking about. So here's the open letter:

Dear Ocean Systems,

As a long time loyal customer, a long time LEVA member and LEVA instructor, and a member of the public service video/image analysis community, I have a particular problem with the language in your recent marketing campaign. Your statement, "With the Omnivore Field Kit, first responders and forensic video analysts alike can go on scene and walk away with an uncompressed copy of the evidence they need to investigate the case," I believe is misleading and borders on a false claim. I believe that it does harm to your trusted name in the community and perhaps will do harm to those who do not take the time to investigate your claims and trust that in purchasing your Field Kit, using it at a crime scene as their first and only option, will in fact "walk away with an uncompressed copy of the evidence they need to investigate the case;" not knowing that they are leaving so much valuable data behind.

So much has changed since we first published Best Practices for the Retrieval of Video Evidence from Digital CCTV Systems (DCCTV Guide). One of the concerns that we had was that people know the difference between video forensics and computer forensics - at the time, we weren't trying to tell folks that they had to follow computer forensics protocols in order to obtain valid multimedia evidence. That is, if they could coax the machine to give them a copy of the data. We gave the community a flow chart of options, options for obtaining the data on various types of media. When all else fails, we noted, resort to signal capture technology. Again, signal capture was/is a last resort option. The Field Kit, relying on the Omnivore, is a signal capture device and is thus a last resort - not something for first responders, certainly.

The industry has changed and responded to the needs of forensic video analysts. There now exists a suite of tools from various manufacturers to image drives and process the data in a meaningful way. Do I mean to say that the Omnivore has no value? Certainly not. I own one and have had occasion to use it when all else failed. When all else failed, it saved my bacon. It offered the trier of fact the only look at the data that was possible. But again, it was the last option on my flow chart; and I'm a trained specialist who knows how to use it effectively, how to document it's use, and so forth.

Therefore, I'll ask a simple request. I do not ask for you to stop marketing the Field Kit or the Omnivore. You are certainly entitled to make a living, to profit, and to thrive. Please, don't be the braggart that leads the good and well meaning astray. I simply ask that you re-word your marketing such that your customers and potential customers are made aware of what they are buying; something akin to "When all else fails, we're here for you." Heck, I'll even pitch in with the example that I reference above and allow you to quote me.

So, please. Be the one that saves the day. Be the one that your customers can rely upon, when all else fails.

Thank you.

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