Impacts of the Advanced Scientific Innovations and Discoveries in Forensic Science
Today, technology has impacted almost everything in our lives.
Specifically, from retinal scanning to DNA testing and fingerprint examination, forensic technologies are so advanced at helping solve a crime that it seems like the events are from some science-fiction thriller.
It is no wonder that solving crimes has become almost futuristic in its advances.
The digital forensics business is booming with high-tech security and surveillance equipment.
One way to measure this is the increased number of qualified professionals working as digital forensics technicians.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), there will be a 16% increase in jobs for forensic science technicians between 2020 and 2030. This growth is due to new but proven forensic science techniques that have increased the availability and reliability of objective forensic data needed to make informed decisions, consequently leading to an uptick in possible trial use.
As such, courts and law enforcement agencies need to hire additional staff to deal with the ever-increasing amounts of data they require.
While TV shows like CSI and NCIS have made many commonly used forensic techniques commonplace in households around the country, you might be surprised to learn that over 17,000 new advancements in forensic technology have been published within the last several years.
These innovations are continually making it increasingly harder for criminals to evade detection by law enforcement agencies across the globe.
Before diving into the innovation and technologies let’s talk about DNA in forensics.
Introduction to Forensic DNA
As the modern age pushes forward, so does technology. Genotyping of mtDNA through Sanger sequencing and profiling DNA through capillary electrophoresis has become much faster due to these new technologies. The first innovation was next-generation sequencing which can sequence genomes at an exponential rate- unheard of until now. Secondly, there are machines now available which will automatically make both mtDNA and STR profiles from samples in a short amount of time – drastically cutting down production time for this process considerably.
Now, here are a few surprisingly innovative technologies used in the field of forensics.
● DNA Phenotyping
While DNA samples found at crime scenes can be matched to a suspect by comparing them, DNA phenotyping can be used to figure out what a suspect looks like.
The 23 chromosomes in our DNA (dominant) control how we look, giving us many identifying physical attributes such as hair, eye, and skin color. Forensic scientists can now determine even more specific characteristics that help us predict a person’s face shape, overall facial appearance, and even general body build.
This includes the shape of the skull, length of bones, age, and gender. Some newer techniques even allow us to extract Neanderthal or Denisovan genes.
It is important to note that these techniques do not consider all the factors that go into human development, like lifestyle, diet, culture, or other detailed aspects.
● Forensic Palynology
Most people are not familiar with forensic palynology.
Palynology is the study of pollen, spores, grains, and seeds and can be used in forensics to identify a subject’s location.
Pollen and spores are tiny particles that can be deposited on skin, or clothes in some cases, and cause no irritation. They are rarely visible to the naked eye. Historically in forensics, there was no reliable method of gathering and comparing these trace remnants of information.
However, this has recently changed because of enhanced research by a team of scientists. The team uses supercomputers to analyze the particles and the progression is rapid.
Forensic scientists can now use this information to examine any particle regardless of its size.
● Digital Vehicle Forensics
Digital vehicle forensics is the practice of acquiring and analyzing digital data from a motor vehicle. The vehicle could have been involved in a crash, a theft, a kidnapping case, an act of terrorism, and other scenarios.
As vehicles have entered the digital age and have become more sophisticated, so have the investigation techniques followed by scientists and investigators.
Today, vehicle forensics investigations include not just looking for physical evidence like fingerprints, fluid samples, and trace materials like dirt, but also involve digital data that can be gathered from the engine’s computer systems, GPS navigation devices, and even smartphones that run apps.
● Drone Forensics
As of August 2021, more than 880k drones were registered with FAA in the U.S.
Over 40% of those drones have been reported for commercial use, and it was expected that this number would rise significantly in the future. These unmanned aerial vehicles have:
- smuggled drugs
- performed illegal surveillance on innocent people
- attacked innocent victims
Police department forensic scientists are working day and night to create models and methods to help track down criminals who use drones, including which parts they might have illegally modified on the drone camera.
● Cloud Forensics
Over 50% of personal and corporate data is now stored in the cloud, meaning remote servers are used to store digital information.
As a result, digital forensic scientists have had to develop methods for collecting, analyzing, and evaluating data collected from the cloud – which also carries several security and privacy issues relating to the integrity of the data as maintaining a custody chain.
To help protect the integrity of the data as well as maintain a custody chain, it has become customary for digital forensic scientists and cyber security experts to use blockchain technology because it is virtually impossible for this kind of data (stored on blockchain) to be manipulated or tampered with without being detected down the line by other users on or offsite 24/7.
● Biosensors for Fingerprint Analysis
Fingerprints at a crime scene can potentially be matched to a suspect. But they aren’t always clear or readable.
Forensic scientists now use biosensors that read bodily fluids to identify suspects.
The biosensor analysis looks at sweat, tears, blood, and other traces of bodily fluids found on an object to determine the age, gender, and what type of medication was taken by the suspect.
These biosensors can also be used on other things like paper or tissue samples.
● Social Media Network Forensics
Forensics is becoming more and more complex over time.
As our online social presence becomes increasingly ingrained into society, it’s important to keep informed on the latest trends, especially when it comes to technology, which tends to develop much faster than society. That’s why scientists have begun reading and analyzing big data to help better understand what type of information one can find on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and other networks.
For automated methods of judging public opinion using this big data analysis system that relies on an unbiased, reproducible model tested in various environments, it’s crucial to understand better what exactly goes into creating these models.
Advanced scientific methods have significantly changed how we analyze evidence and detect criminals. We no longer use unreliable methods such as guesswork or gut intuition but instead examine complex evidence using logical reasoning. This has led to several exonerations for those convicted based on shaky evidence from eyewitnesses or because their confession was obtained improperly by police officers. These techniques are revolutionizing criminal justice worldwide, ensuring that innocent people are not wrongly convicted for crimes they did not commit and ensuring that guilty criminals get adequately prosecuted for their crimes.
Do you need forensic DNA testing help for your case? Sorenson Forensics is a leading provider of advanced forensic casework and DNA testing services to federal, state, and local crime laboratories. We also assist officers of the court in individual criminal cases and offer comprehensive forensic DNA services to private-industry clients. Fill out our form to get in touch for a free consultation.