ORLANDO, Fla. – During the past decade, the DNA technology used to solve crimes and settle paternity suits has become a big business. The federal government alone spent $232 million this past fiscal year promoting the use of a technology that barely existed 20 years ago.

Now two information-technology experts with Florida ties are predicting the use of digital forensics to police – what they call “counterfeit reality” – will soon join DNA science as a growth industry.

A coming explosion of counterfeit reality – the use of computers and digitally based media to produce fake images, video, documents or sounds – will drive a multibillion-dollar business of detecting what is real and what is not, say Daryl Plummer and Frank Kenney, analysts with Gartner Inc., a market-research firm based in Stamford, Conn.

“In a decade, a person will be able to create a movie of you in a place you never were, doing something you never did, and you won’t even be able to tell it wasn’t you,” said Plummer, who manages Gartner’s emerging trends and technologies division.

Fueling the growth of this counterfeit reality: the proliferation of digital cameras, digital camcorders and the computers and software that allow even nonspecialists to produce convincing fakes, Plummer said during a recent visit to Orlando for a technology symposium.

Plummer and Kenney, a Gartner research analyst, think the fake-detection industry will become a multibillion-dollar-a-year business during the next decade.

It may start with government agencies such as the FBI and the U.S.

Patent and Trademark Office, they said, but corporations and digital-sleuthing entrepreneurs are expected to enter the field once enough high-tech tools are developed to ferret out imperfections in highly realistic fakes.

Nowadays, almost anyone with the right equipment can combine pieces of different photos into a single, realistic image or create artificial movies purporting to show real individuals in embarrassing or criminal situations.

“It’s inevitable that counterfeit reality will enter the world’s collective consciousness over the next decade,” said the 44-year-old Plummer, a Florida State University grad.

“It may not be as common as Internet spam or identity theft, but it will be very impactful on socio-economic events, requiring new methods of detection and regulation.”

The FBI and local police agencies are now using digital forensics to analyze documents, photos and sounds, but new techniques will have to be developed to spot phony works, said Plummer, a former division director and technology coordinator for the Florida Department of Management Services.

“As counterfeit reality gets more sophisticated, we will need sophisticated new ways to detect it,” he said.

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