Q&A With an Expert on the Data Analytics Revolution

Data analytics is a powerful tool that can be used to predict events, gather intelligence, respond to emergencies and much more.

It’s hard to miss the impact that data analytics is having on businesses and institutions across the country.

Advances in technology have organizations of all types leveraging the treasure trove of information they collect to make smarter decisions and draw more informed conclusions.

As an increasing number of decision makers realize the value of investing in analytics tools, a healthy crowd of companies have pushed to provide solutions that make everyone’s jobs easier. These solutions can analyze sounds, images and video to identify trends, outliers and everything in between.

Campus Safety recently had the opportunity to speak with Regional Sales Manager Jon Carmichael of Qognify, one of the companies dealing in data analytics.

The following conversation has been edited lightly for clarification and brevity.

CS: How have improvements in technology changed the way we collect data?
JC: There are two things happening right now: On one hand sensor technology has become more intelligent and accurate. For example scream detectors used to be impractical because screeching tires would set them off and cause so many false alarms. Now most people are using dual-technology sensors, where one sensor validates the other, and that eliminates that problem. On the other hand we’ve got this big data revolution where the processing power of computers has become such that I can get so much more intelligence out of my data. So we’ve got the ability to process data on the one hand and you’ve got increasingly intelligent sensors on the other, and you put those together and you’ve got more useable information than you’ve ever had before.

What areas of information collection do you think are the most useful for institutions?
JC: It’s really a risk-based service if you think about where it will be the most valuable. Like maybe in a mass transit system where I’m looking at every face that goes through a choke point like a turnstile, and then I’m able to get pretty good information on those people. Or it might be inside a data center where I’ve got really high value information and compliance requirements and only certain people can go in, so you’d use a really high gain service for that. Facial recognition has come a long way. There are a number of biometrics that are really powerful right now. Iris scans, hand geometry, fingerprints, I mean if you go to Disneyworld now you get a fingerprint scan. Even our phones have fingerprint readers, so we’ve come a long way with biometrics, and all that’s just sensor data to us. It’s an authentication device that allows us to use an analytic for authentication.

In what other ways are institutions using data to improve security?
JC: Everyone’s trying to shorten the lifecycle of incidents. So we’re creating more predictive capabilities, and if we’re not able to predict an incident we can at least become aware of it very quickly and respond with a solid level of intelligence. Before, first responders had to go into something like an active shooter situation blindly, and there was also this lag time from when the incident occurred and when you were responding. Now officers are responding very quickly. The more information you can give them, either through cameras or other sensor technology, the better. Then you’ve got the explosion of social media. Using social media mining services can help you get a picture from the inside and that makes the response much more intelligent than it was before.

“We’re in this technology race right now. Never before have you had so much information available to you as a security professional.” – Jon Carmichael

What are some ways companies are analyzing all this data?
JC: Qognify’s primary mission is data crunching. We take all this disparate information and make sense of it. We have advanced correlation engines that make sense of information, so instead of someone pulling a three ring binder out and saying, ‘If there’s an active shooter I have to do this and this,” everything is automated so you can just check off some boxes and it streamlines your tasks. We also go beyond physical security and look at other data. If you work at an airport and there’s ice on the runway we can track that and determine when your truck should come out and salt the runways. Then finally we can use video clips or snapshots or even just a general description and do searches for things that match that by scanning a surveillance system. All of those features are really just data crunching and making sense of information.

What challenges do institutions face as they try to adopt all this new technology?
JC: There’s two things. One is that you have budgets, so people don’t have the money to add technology that’s cutting edge and they’re only going to add it when they feel like they need to. But we’re in this technology race right now. Never before have you had so much information available to you as a security professional. You can capitalize on data crunching and video analytics and all of that. But on the flipside you’ve got the bad guys who are out there using the same technology to Google how to hack into your building by spoofing your access control system. So as security professionals we’ve got to embrace technology to stay ahead of the people who are trying to get an advantage over us.

Any advice for institutions looking to make the most out of data analytics?
JC: One thing I would reinforce is extending the perimeter. Everyone’s used to that fence-line detection, so you have barriers to keep the barbarians out, but really your awareness has to go beyond the perimeter. Sometimes that means social media scanning and sometimes that means using scanners that may detect intruders approaching your facility. Sometimes it’s just general intelligence work and becoming aware of what’s happening. All of that information becomes very valuable to you if you start looking at trends. If you’re not aware of what’s happening around you it becomes very hard to prevent something from happening.

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About the Author


Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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