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CommandCentral Predictive: Built for Field Use


We have had tremendous feedback since we announced our newest product, CommandCentral Predictive, several weeks back.  Since the announcement we have literally heard from hundreds of agencies.  Last week I was on the road speaking to agencies, including several of our existing customers and hopefully some new ones.

It is hugely rewarding to see such response given the amount of time and effort we have put into creating CommandCentral Predictive.  This launch is the culmination of months of meeting with customers and getting their continuous feedback on the product, and the extraordinary effort by our team to turn that feedback into tangible changes in the product.

During the course of developing this product we spoke with many law enforcement agencies about product features and had dozens of recommendations on how to build a better product.   Some we have been able to include in the first generation, and others that are still to come.

From my meetings in the last two weeks there were two things that have really stood out about CommandCentral Predictive feedback.  First is that every agency that I have spoken to is looking for a better way to direct and enable their patrol officers to increase their effectiveness.  It’s simply an issue of how to maximize their resources in the most effective way through direction and information enablement.

The second item goes along with that was something that we have heard all along: that anything we provide needed to be usable in the field, not just another screen on a computer for someone to look at.

That hit home last week when I visited a large agency who is currently testing their own internally-developed predictive analytics solution.  While they have yet to determine whether or not to roll it out, one of the concerns they had was whether or not officers will actually use it.  Their limited trials have had mixed results and previous experience with another application showed limited success because very few officers got to the first step: logging on.

We realized this early in the development of this product which led us to two needs: first, to build CommandCentral Predictive with mobile devices in mind, and second, to empower officers with real data to make smarter, more informed decisions.

The mobile part was a no-brainer.  If they haven’t started already, almost every agency envisions the time when they will drop their MDT’s (Mobile Data Terminal) for tablet devices.  So, we built this product not only to be run on a tablet or large smart phone, but to be optimized for it.

Second, we built functionality into it so that users could access the underlying data driving predictions.  And it was designed to present this information to officers so they could easily access it and use it to make better decisions when they are in the field.

This data accessibility was validated time and again last week as I spoke with agencies, who see the value in empowering their officers with data in the field that help them to make better decisions and actions.  It simply helps to make better, smarter decisions while on patrol.  And, most importantly, it does it automatically, improving information flow without burdening an analyst with pulling data for officers (more on this another time).

Anyone who takes CommandCentral Predictive for a test drive will see how easy it is to access information that will put an officer at the advantage.  It’s just one of those things we built into CommandCentral Predictive that makes is such an exciting product.  We look forward to more feedback as we meet with customers and continuing to innovate on CommandCentral Predictive to make it the most effective tool to predict and prevent crime.

Predictive Analytics Where it Matters: Preventing Crime

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Today there is a lot of buzz about the use of predictive analytics in business.  Spurred in part by the best selling book, Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie or Die, by Eric Siegel, it seems that everyone is talking about ways to predict every major and minor event in our lives.

As with every application of technology, there are implementations that can have a higher, or lower impact on society.  At PublicEngines, we have long believed in the application of analytics to improving quality of life in general, and specifically to fighting crime.  That’s why we were pleased to announce our newest product last week: CommandCentral Predictive.

CommandCentral Predictive is a significant step forward in the use of predictive analytics to accomplishing law enforcement’s goal of preventing crime and improving our communities by making them safer.  In particular, from the time we conceived this product through to its final development, there were two things that were most important to us: accuracy and ease-of-use.

Pre-eminent in our thought process was to create a product that accurately predicts potential crime.  The entire basis of this product is to more accurately digest data and provide an accurate, unbiased view of the highest probability of crime on a daily basis.  So, the science behind it had to be sound.   That’s why we designed our prediction engine using multiple algorithms to optimize its effectiveness and verified it with extensive field-testing.

Of almost equal importance to us was to design the product with the highest ease of use.  It doesn’t matter how good the product is, if the interface isn’t easy to navigate,  it won’t be used.  So, we designed the product from the start with the idea that users need to be able to jump in the product right from the beginning with little to no training.  Then, we took that design to officers, analysts, and command staff, and asked for their input on how to make it better and we redesigned it based on their feedback (more on this in another post).  The result is something that is functional and highly usable; delivering a daily report in a way that any officer can use to improve the way they police.

With an announcement of a product like this there is no doubt that naysayers will voice their opinions.  In particular, we’ve heard those who will say that advanced crime analytics software can’t replace crime analysts.  And they are right.  That’s not our intent.  However, we know how much time analysts have and where their demands are.  Analysts spend a significant amount of time working with officers and patrol supervisors on their areas of patrol responsibility.  They’ve told us they’re overwhelmed with more work than they can handle.  CommandCentral Predictive is designed to help them take a significant demand and essentially automate the prediction of high-probability events and give them more time for analysis.  For those agencies without an analyst (a majority), this is a significant boost by giving them the tactical, directed analysis their officers need but can’t currently afford.

Others may cite instances where software has not worked well at making predictions, such as the military’s use of prediction software to forecast political unrest.  But what we have seen is that, like what you purchase, where you shop, or what you look at online, crime occurs, for the most part, in a repeatable, predictable pattern.  And our field-testing has shown that our algorithms are far more accurate in seeing both long- and short-term trends, modeling them, and learning and improving along the way.  In fact, this very field-testing has show us to be, on average, 2.7 times more accurate than traditional hotspot models at determining where the next crimes will occur.

Tim O’Reilly, the well-known media technologist, once said, “We’re entering a new world in which data may be more important than software.”  I think this is especially true in law enforcement, where enforcement officers have the data to help themselves, but have traditionally struggled through poor software tools to help them analyze it.  So, while we are proud and excited about CommandCentral Predictive, what we are most excited about is this product’s potential to unlock the patterns and intelligence in agency’s data and helping them to make better and more effective policing decisions.

St. Baldrick’s Charity Fundraising: Thank You For Supporting Us!

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There are many things we can be proud of here at PublicEngines including our products, our people, and our customers.  But this last week I am particularly proud of our team’s efforts to give back to the community.

One of our company values is to be Great at Doing Good.  We explain it as: “We have the opportunity to do something that matters in people’s lives.  In everything we do, our mission is to do good things, and be great at doing them.”  That includes our products, our services, and doing good as a company.

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Those of you that follow us know that our company supports two charities: St. Baldricks, a charity sponsoring childhood cancer research, and COPS, which stands for Concerns of Police Survivors, supporting surviving families of fallen officers.

This past week we finished our fundraising for St. Baldricks and several of us committed to shaving our heads in exchange for donations to the charity.  Our original goal was to raise $3,000 and we far surpassed that, reaching almost $10,000 in donations when we were done.  In the end, many of us on the team shaved our heads.  One, Reyna, was brave enough to cut her long hair and donate it to Locks of Love.  We even had one employee (DJ) that was not near an event but he still raised money and had his own shaving event at home!

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It was a moving experience to see the support from our friends, family, and co-workers.  It was even more motivating to meet with those afflicted with childhood cancer and get a few fist bumps along the way.

It was a great time and a proud moment, and we look forward to doing it again next year.  Thanks to our team for sacrificing their time and hair, and thank you to everyone who supported us.  And by the way, it’s not to late to donate at the PublicEngines St. Baldrick’s page.  Thanks again!

PublicEngines Supports St. Baldrick’s

updated – 2-28-13


At PublicEngines, we believe in giving back to the community.  And while that’s a pretty overused term, we are willing to bet our hair on it.

One of the charities that we support is St. Baldrick’s, which helps provide funding for childhood cancer research.  More children lose their life to cancer than to any other disease in the US, and it affects roughly 1 in 300 kids.  Most often, it’s not diagnosed early enough, spreading to other areas of the body before it’s discovered.

We are trying to help further cancer research by supporting St. Baldrick’s fund raising and supporting kids who are stricken by one of the dozens of types of cancer.  We’ve formed the PublicEngines team and will shave our heads if we reach our team goal of raising $4,000.

Please join us by making a donation on behalf of a member of our team at the PublicEngines donation page on the St. Baldrick’s Website.  If we reach our funding goal, you’ll see some interesting, if not scary, photos up on our blog in March.  The lives of many kids will benefit from your donation.  Thank you for your support.

TipSoft for Education Launch

Last week PublicEngines launched TipSoft for Education, a cloud-based product to help schools combat the problems of bullying (including Cyberbullying), drugs, weapons, violence and other offences.  In conjunction with that launch, many people attended last week’s webinar highlighting one of our customers, Blount County, TN, called “Five Effective Steps to Solving the Bullying Epidemic.”  That Webinar can be found on the PublicEngines’ home page or below.

TipSoft has been the standard for tip-based communications and management for years.  And while we already have many education customers using TipSoft , we thought it was important to launch TipSoft for Education specifically for the K-12 education market.  This is because we’ve witnessed four important trends recently that we know are affecting the K-12 environment.

Four Trends Affecting K-12 Education

1) State Mandates –  Especially in light of the rash of bullying incidents, almost all states now have anti-bullying legislation, and many require schools to have a solution in place that allows students to report issues of bullying and harassment.  In fact, 49 states have passed new or newly amended anti-bullying legislation.  This increased requirement has become a burden on schools that TipSoft can fulfill.

2) Accountability –  Schools today are facing an increasing demand for accountability in addressing incidents when bullying occurs or when students bring drugs or weapons into the schools.  TipSoft provides a robust incident management application to show that information has been collected, disseminated, and an ability to report that information back out.  So, with TipSoft, schools can accurately log and show what they have done when an incident occurs.

3) Increase of Funding Tied to Attendance –  Many states have now tied the allocation of federal funds to average daily attendance (ADA).  When students miss school, it costs the schools between $20-$50 per day they are absent.  With more than 160,000 students skipping schools each day because of fear of bullying, have a solution that can literally pay for itself in allowing schools to hold on to precious federal funding is essential.

4) The Need for Alerting – The recent shooting tragedies in Sandy Hook, Connecticut and Lone Star College in Texas have shown that when a shooting occurs, there is a gap in the ability to effectively warn those at the school, as well as parents and community members of the incident in providing them with safety instructions and updates.  In the case of the Lone Star College incident, an alert was posted on the college’s Website instructing students and faculty to take cover.  We view this as inadequate for schools.  TipSoft Alerts, which has the ability to broadcast text messages to subscriber’s phones, is a much more effective and immediate solution that delivers information right to users’ phones.

Because of these requirements, we think TipSoft is the ideal application to help schools combat the issues of bullying, cyberbullying, violence, weapons and drugs in schools.  One of the things we are most proud of is the number of suicides that have been prevented in schools, as highlighted in last week’s presentation.  One of our customers, Safe2Tell, has recently recorded a milestone of more that 1,000 suicides interventions, which originated from information coming into TipSoft.  TipSoft is a proven application and is run by more than 1,000 organizations, including police forces, the US Navy and Air Force, and many universities.

Part of that success comes from the ubiquity of the application for users—students can submit information from a mobile app, the Web, or by text, as well as ease of administrators in using the cloud-based application, along with the unique ability of schools being able to forward and share information with local law enforcement.  Those features have made TipSoft the number one application for law enforcement for years, and we expect it will have the same level of impact for K-12 education as well.