April 22, 2015
Very recently the ice finally broke surrounding Damien Patton’s startup Banjo. After operating in stealth for several months, Patton decided it was time to bring Banjo Enterprise to the public. We’ve spoken to Patton on multiple occasions in the past, however he didn’t let anybody know all of the details or see the full picture until a few weeks ago.
“While we were perfecting how a lot of this stuff [Banjo’s algorithms] was working with our partners with like NBC, we wanted to wait until we felt mature enough to focus on the business side of things more,” says Patton.
The whole idea behind the platform is to take advantage of the massive amounts of unstructured data that roam our airways. That is, Banjo instantly organizes the world’s social and digital signals by location, giving an unprecedented level of understanding of what’s happening anywhere in the world, in real time.
For Patton, everything hinges on that one idea: “real time”. And for Banjo real time means immediately, from the second something is shared socially.
“We build our own social graph so we don’t have to rely on access from social networks. Our users and their friends give us access through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and the like,” says Patton. “We get an alert anytime one of them updates their account. We just figured out how to do it automatically for 1.2 billion people: we do about 30,000 different operations on a single post.”
As he calls it, this photo recognition and visual listening is what Banjo has been working hardest on for the last few years. And all of that metadata is saved by actual location in the world and where it originates.
“All these posts come in, we do all the analysis, and then we deposit that metadata into the exact place it’s coming from,” says Patton. “All the different information you could possibly imagine is mapped to that specific spot on the globe. We’ve been doing this now for many years, listening to everywhere on the planet and have been cooking up the statistical norm.”
That is, Patton and his Banjo team have divided up the globe into sections and calculated a standard deviation (SD) norm for each region. For example, certain parts of Disneyland will have consistent levels of social interaction over multiple days. Though, norms differ over summer, winter, weekends, or holidays.
“You have to look at multiple years of data, every second of the day, and find out what’s truly normal,” says Patton.
By establishing a SD you can then find, with incredible ease, when something doesn’t fit the mold. It might be an unplanned event like a plane crash, a fire in a building, or a car accident: if it’s posted to social media Banjo will know, and they’ll know within milliseconds of said event happening.
And Patton assures us that privacy is the literal ethos of Banjo, and they take personal data so seriously that they’ve even put a patent on protecting user privacy. All of this ensures that if a post is removed, even years after being posted, it’s wiped from the Banjo database and all the customer databases as well.
“Banjo doesn’t keep any private data,” says Patton. “Everything we use is explicitly publicly shared and geo-tagged.”
That publicly shared, geo-tagged data can actually do a whole lot of good in the hands of a responsible company like Banjo. For example, Patton and his CMO were in the AOL building in New York City a few weeks ago when that building exploded.
While there Patton heard a fire truck go by and he said: “I guarantee you Banjo knows why that truck is going by”. Sure enough, a split second later, his phone lit up and told him a building nearby had blown up. Further, it took about another whole minute before the building alarm went off and told everybody to evacuate.
The point is, the first photo taken before the first responders got there was pushed to social media, Banjo recognized a breach in Standard Deviation automatically, and sent out an alert. Patton sent out notifications to Banjo’s media partners fifteen minutes before news outlets had broken any kind of story.
“If people would stop just thinking of Twitter and look at the landscape worldwide, they would see that photos and videos are shared at a much greater rate than tweets,” says Patton. “The next thing has to be what’s beyond the hashtag.”
From the beginning, Patton has wanted to create what he calls a ‘crystal ball’ in the Banjo platform. He thought: what if we knew everything that was happening before anybody in the world?
Imagine what you could change, what you could accomplish, and who you could help. I have to say, it’s fascinating stuff and I think Patton has a grand slam with this idea.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Banjo press team / “Banjo’s Social Map detects the moment that “normal” is disrupted”
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