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X-Mapper: The App Helping Police to Map Digital Assets and Much More

By Radmila Milenkovich on May 6, 2020

FotoWare is used by police, forensics, and defense forces around the world to manage digital evidence files and support investigative and judicial processes. Our partner in Germany, Xenario, identified the need to build an extension for police forces, with an application to visualize existing geo-references of assets in any web-based mapping service, such as Google Maps, Bing Maps, or Open Street Maps. 

The solution, that detects and converts on the fly GPS coordinates in the images and videos, is now used by several police districts in Germany. We spoke to Olaf Dannhauer, Managing Partner at Xenario, to reveal the thought behind X-mapper and the challenges it has helped to solve for the police in Germany. 

How did the idea to develop X-mapper come about?

The idea for the development of the X-mapper application was driven by the demand of our customers. In the field of police and security applications, it is crucial not only to visually see images and video files, or find them by using metadata, but it is also highly relevant to know where a specific image was taken. Another very important application is to find media files by choosing a certain geographic area on a map. This goes far beyond classic manually added metadata and makes use of automatically generated geo-information that most smartphones and many digital cameras provide.

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How is the X-mapper making a difference in the day-to-day life of police forces in Germany?

We cannot talk too much about details, but for investigators it opens up a totally new overview to visualize the crime scene in a geographical context. An investigation has to track events on a timeline at different locations, so knowing about the exact location of a scene and where the images and video are situated is crucial in the presentation of the evidence.

What are some interesting features of X-mapper?

What our customers especially like, besides the classical mapping solution, is the combination with the power of XMP-metadata. It is possible to use the embedded geo-information and show the location of a media asset on a map, but this can be combined with classical metadata information, like keywords. By searching for keywords, the corresponding hits can also be presented on a map interface. This opens totally new possibilities to work with assets.

Another feature that is picking up is geo-referencing in videos. With a geo-coded video file, it is possible to visualize that track of movement on the map. It also works the other way round, where the user can pick a path on a track and the corresponding scene in the video is shown.

It is important to emphasize that digital photos and videos that are already delivered with geo-information are automatically located in the maps used. Beyond that, media files that do not have GPS data can be located in the X-Mapper afterwards. Thus, historical archive material can be enhanced with localization data, incorrectly captured GPS data can be corrected, and file-types such as documents that normally do not have any geo data can be provided with locations.

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Who else can benefit from using the X-mapper?

Besides the already mentioned police and security applications, we find that especially customers in the field of nature protection, like national park services, or the real estate business, can benefit from the ability to geographically visualize their media assets. There is also interest from media companies and publishing houses to implement geo-location ability as an add-on to a typical FotoWare solution. Last, but not least, county offices or city councils that want to document the work of different departments can also benefit from this module.