Business analytics is being leveraged to prevent school shootings

Sisense, which just closed $80M, uses analytics to help companies and organizations solve an array of problems, including crime and serious threats.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

Business analytics is one of the hottest B2B sectors, and business intelligence company Sisense has $80M more in its war chest to prove it. The newly announced funding, led by New York based Insight Venture Partners, brings Sisense's total funding to date to around $200M.

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Those pockets speak to the deepening investment in big data in the modern enterprise and the corresponding havoc that arises as companies attempt to make sense of it. Sisense has come in with a well-timed pitch: An easy to use hybrid-cloud solution that scales up or down to turn raw data into usable intelligence, which might take the form of everything from data preparation to discovery of insights.

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"Every business is facing the challenge of extracting relevant and accurate insights from ever-growing amounts of data and data sources," explains CEO Amir Orad.

That strategic versatility, which is data-agnostic and plug-and-play, is the new normal in business analytics, and it's giving rise to some novel applications. One of Sisense's clients, Captis Intelligence, has been using the company's hybrid-cloud analytics to extract insights from publicly accessible social media feeds and posts on the unindexed deep web about crimes and credible threats to safety, including in schools. Captis calls its analytics tool PRISM and uses Sisense for its data digesting and to run the analysis.

It's a demonstration of the versatility of modern business intelligence platforms, which sit at the intersection of AI, machine learning, IoT, and analytics. It's also a useful example of how analytics can be leveraged to help with a variety of very targeted problems.

In the case of Captis, the opportunity came after the company learned that some schools unsuccessfully try to scan enormous amounts of social media posts manually each day to watch for credible threats.

"A common thread in almost all the recent school shootings are the threats that were made on social media prior to the incident taking place," Captis co-founder Dario Brebric told me recently. "Social media is the most powerful communication tool our world has ever seen, but combing through billions of posts daily is impossible without a highly advanced tool like PRISM."

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PRISM runs hundreds of simultaneous tasks with the aim of identifying the sentiment of a post or message. Messages deemed of interest are flagged for human inspection. It's a glimpse at a larger convergence between enterprise technology and public security strategies in the data age.

According to Brebric, the system has demonstrated success in this area.

"Just a few days ago, a student at one of the hundreds of schools we work with threatened to bring several weapons to school through a social media site over the weekend," Brebric told me in June. "The threats were identified and vetted, and the school was notified by Captis. Based on the information we provided, the school made the decision to have law enforcement waiting for the student at the school on Monday. This student showed up with a weapon on his person, and was intercepted by police before he could carry out his threat."

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Brebric is quick to point out that that's a fairly uncommon scenario. "More common is when the system helps school staff prevent fights between students, when the time and place were announced in advance online."

This same technology is being leveraged to prevent violence at retail stores, such as when a customer and an employee have a confrontation and the customer threatens revenge online.

And the same business analytics DNA powers both use cases, and is also being leveraged by companies in sectors like autonomous driving and marketing. It's an object lesson in the flexibility of Big Data analytics.

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