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Brainwave Technology to Advance Crime Investigation

Brainwave Technology for Crime Investigation

A research team from New Zealand’s University of Canterbury is leading an innovative research project that is delivering positive results.

As reported, the innovative research project detects brain activity that reveals individuals’ knowledge of criminal behaviour.


The project team, led by UC Director of Clinical Legal Studies Professor Robin Palmer, has been working for the past three years in an attempt to validate Forensic Brainwave Analysis (FBA) technology.

This technology uses an EEG (electroencephalogram) to detect brainwaves that indicate whether or not a person has specific knowledge contained in their brain.

The knowledge may suggest that the tested person was involved in criminal behaviour.

The initial expectations of the accuracy and reliability of the technology have been confirmed and the team is confident about positively proceeding to the next stage of the project.

FBA works to uncover the knowledge a person has by measuring certain brainwave responses during testing.

About the Initiative

The testing technique detects and interprets the behaviour of the electrical brainwave known as P300.

The P300 brainwave is produced as soon as the brain detects information that is of significant interest such as in a criminal investigation where there is unique information and detail only the offender or someone heavily compromised would know.

The New Zealand Law Foundation is funding the project that involves two extensive experiments that involved 30 student volunteers and 15 sentenced prisoners, who were tested on scenarios that took place on the University’s campus.

The FBA technology, which is also known as ‘brain-fingerprinting’, was pioneered by Dr Lawrence Farwell of the United States.

The aim of the three-year project was to independently confirm his reported results.

Dr Farwell travelled to New Zealand a number of times to have discussions, implement experiments and train testers on the correct use of his system.

However, the final sequence of experiments was done independently of Dr Farwell, while applying his prescribed testing protocols.

Professor Palmer hopes the technology could be applied to criminal proceedings especially pre-trial investigations as a way of eliminating people as possible suspects.

The proposed next stage of the project is to apply the technology to criminal cases and to compare the Farwell FBA system to rival FBA systems currently in use such as the Rosenfeld Concealed Information Test and the Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature system.

In 2020, with support from the New Zealand Police, the project team hopes to implement a pilot programme and test actual suspects.

Preventing Crime With Tech

Countries across the globe have implemented initiatives that use technology to protect citizens from crimes.

In Singapore, for instance, the Singapore Police Force and OCBC will jointly administer a new automated data retrieval process that will allow for a more efficient and quicker course of solving financial crimes.

The two agencies have collaborated under Project POET (Production Orders: Electronic Transmission).

The automation of this process will allow for law enforcement agencies to retrieve banking information required for investigations within a shorter length of time.

Meanwhile, drones will be utilised by Malaysia and Indonesia to tackle cross-border crimes.

This effort to strengthen the surveillance over both countries’ borders has proven to be necessary as the vast border (land) in Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan is more than 1,000 km.

Malaysia is committed to eradicating illegal immigrant issues and would provide any type of cooperation with Indonesia for the future safety of the borders of both countries.

The Victorian Government, for its part, is cracking down on identity fraud and doing more to protect Victorians and their digital data through the use of new identity matching technology.

Following a Council of Australian Governments’ agreement, Victorian driver licence data will be uploaded to the Federal Government’s National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution (NDLFRS).

This initiative will improve the way VicRoads and Victoria Police can monitor for fraudulent or duplicate IDs.

The system identifies distinctive facial characteristics, which can then be compared against driver licence images.

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