During a live United Nations webcast Wednesday, the Raleigh-based founders of PredictifyMe were presented as a key big data partner for an initiative to stop suicide bombings and make schools safer in Pakistan.
Former British Prime Minister and now UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown announced a public-private partnership to provide the startup’s software to 1,000 Pakistani schools to help assess the risk of terrorist attacks, prepare against them and facilitate communication between schools and officials to prevent bombings. Eventually, the program could expand to the rest of Pakistan’s 200,000 schools and to South Sudan, Lebanon and other countries.
Bombings happen about every other day in Pakistan and schools are often the target.
According to Brown, the UN has neglected the issue “at our peril.” He added, “we must build more innovative partnerships to involve tech companies, businesses, foundations and governments to deliver on this Safe Schools initiative (…) It is our moral duty to make sure that every single child in the world can enjoy the basic right to education free of terror, free of fear and with the support of the international community.”
Burns told me Monday that the relationship with the UN began in September—an advisor sits on a UN committee and had notified the organization about the startup. PredictifyMe put together a proposal to donate the software and training time to the UN and a Pakistani NGO. Burns admits he didn’t expect the relationship to move forward so quickly.
But then Brown announced an initiative around safe schools in Pakistan. And things escalated quick.
“It was fortuitous,” co-founder Rob Burns told me Monday. “We happen to have the largest database in the world of injury patterns from suicide bombings.”
The relationship is two-fold. PredictifyMe software called Secure Sim helps simulate situations to assess risks like the explosiveness of building materials and the layout of classrooms (using CAD drawings). It determines how prepared a school is to handle a bombing or attack and gives recommendations to implement better safety strategies. A second software platform called Soothsayer takes geosocial indicators and predicts in real-time when a school is at risk. It notifies authorities so they can react by putting more security in place or by trying to identify the bombers. According to Burns, the software predicts a bombing within three days and with 94 percent accuracy.
Here’s a talk co-founder Zeeshan-Ul-Hassan Usmani gave last year at Research Triangle Park explaining the technology and how he collected and analyzed the data:
Additional business lines will be pursued as PredictifyMe expands. They expect retail companies to want help understanding consumer behavior and insurance companies to use a more analytical way of calculating the risk of a potential customer before initiating a policy.
With the 130,000 datasets available on Data.gov and about 2,000 at Healthdata.gov in the U.S. alone, a lot of data can be grabbed and crunched to begin to isolate—and with extreme accuracy, predict—the behavior of any individual, from Raleigh to Pakistan, Burns says.