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Computer Vision Proof of Concept

About BillionGraves 

BillionGraves is the world’s largest resource for searchable GPS cemetery data whose goal is to preserve precious records found in cemeteries throughout the world to assist in family history research to help people connect to their family members through past generations. Using cutting edge technology, people around the world can capture images of headstones with their GPS locations so users worldwide can access those records anywhere. 

The Challenge 

BillionGraves has an enthusiastic and committed user base around the world. Currently, users voluntarily take pictures of headstones and through an app or online interface upload pictures with associated GPS location information then transcribe the headstone inscriptions (name, date of birth, date or death, relatives, etc.) into text.  

However, BillionGraves recognized that the current rate at which headstones can be added to the database is limited by the current workflow. BillionGraves imagined a solution which could speed up the process by a factor of ten: taking handheld or drone-mounted videos, then use computer vision to identify headstones and provide images or short video clips to users for transcription. 

Why Amazon Web Services   

Because of prior experience with AWS for data storage and processing, BillionGraves was familiar with the potential power of leveraging the AWS ecosystem. They recognized that AWS provides a number of services with potential to drive their business to the next level, specifically Amazon S3 and Amazon SageMaker.  

BillionGraves expects to ingest much larger data streams and can benefit from S3’s provisions for cost-tiered data storage, processing, web-serving, and archiving. SageMaker provides a seamless, unified platform for testing, training, validating, and productionizing computer vision algorithms and the post-processing necessary to achieve BillionGraves’ business goals. In addition, BillionGraves is exploring the possibility of utilizing Amazon SageMaker Ground Truth and exploring data analysis using Amazon Textract. 

The Benefits 

BillionGraves reached out to 1Strategy based on several previous interactions and was very familiar with 1Strategy’s extensive experience within AWS. 1Strategy worked closely with BillionGraves to develop a mixture of managed and custom services to create a pipeline for processing video data using computer vision. 

Through this project with 1Strategy, machine learning (ML) enables data acquisition from photos and video, either from a handheld device or from drone footage. 1Strategy implemented a custom object detector in Amazon SageMaker. This single shot detector recognizes headstones and isolates them in a frame using a training sample of several thousand annotated headstone images hosted on Amazon S3, increasing the ingestion rate tenfold. 

Caption: Model training involves taking a set of images of headstones and manually drawing “bounding boxes” around them using custom software developed by BillionGraves Engineers. The training set consists of thousands of such labeled images which are then fed to the neural network hosted on AWS, which can learn how to replicate this process. Once the neural network is trained, new, unlabeled still images or individual video frames are shown to the model, which can identify headstones and locate them in the image.

1Strategy developed of a custom algorithm in SageMaker to link the headstones in a series of adjacent frames for the purpose of finding the best frame for human readers to be able to document the annotations on the headstone. The image below is an example of the neural network at work. It has found and located three headstones in a frame from a sample video. The labels around the bounding boxes are measures of the quality of the identification and the clarity of the image.

1Strategy’s six-week rapid implementation of SageMaker’s native object detection neural network enabled BillionGraves to implement and rapidly iterate on the Proof of Concept and identify several data quality and processing issues almost immediately. As Brian Moncur, CTO of BillionGraves put it, this input was like “rocket fuel for the project.” BillionGraves was able to avoid wasted manual effort by changing the way it collected and labeled training data. In addition, quickly analyzing the results allowed BillionGraves to understand the magnitude of the larger and more inclusive data sets they will eventually require. “1Strategy has been a great help and a wealth of knowledge! We’re starting to implement all of the work that has been done into a production stream now,” Moncur adds.

By working closely with BillionGraves, 1Strategy engineers were able to both collaborate and bring value to their business through education in available AWS machine learning services and techniques. 1Strategy’s hands-on approach enabled BillionGraves to create a new SageMaker pipeline for ML training and to implement their updated data set in an updated object detector endpoint. BillionGraves integrated the co-developed video post-processing pipeline into their existing data pipeline and have moved into production for the end product, a stream of images for users to label, with the goal of increasing the company’s ingest rate from 250 headstones per hour to 2400+.

About 1Strategy

1Strategy is an Amazon Partner Network (APN) Premier Consulting Partner, focusing exclusively on Amazon Web Services (AWS). 1Strategy helps businesses architect, migrate, and optimize their workloads on AWS, creating scalable, cost-effective, secure, and reliable solutions. 1Strategy also helps customers get real value from their data using comprehensive machine learning models and artificial intelligence. 1Strategy holds the AWS DevOps, Migration, Data & Analytics, Well-Architected, and Machine Learning Competencies, and is a partner of the AWS Public Sector Program. 1Strategy was one of the initial ten AWS Partners globally who was qualified and authorized by AWS to conduct a Well-Architected Review and is among the top Well Architected partners in the AWS ecosystem. With experts having deployed AWS solutions since 2007, 1Strategy is a leader in custom training—providing customers with the knowledge, tools, and best practices to manage those solutions over time. 1Strategy is a TEKsystems Global Services company headquartered in Seattle with additional teams located in San Francisco and Salt Lake City, supporting customers globally and across every vertical.  

Learn More 

For more information about how 1Strategy can assist your company migrate to AWS, optimize AWS solutions including security and backup strategies, and receive custom training, visit  To read about other companies we’ve helped in their AWS journey, check out our case studies page.