In the movie Minority Report, technology is able to predict events before they happen. That’s still impossible today, but a company called Banjo is now able to know about any major newsworthy event as it happens. Put simply, if something “out of the ordinary” (newsworthy, in other words) is happening anywhere in the civilized world, Banjo knows about it—and makes sense out of it—before anyone else. It’s realtime social media analysis on steroids—on steroids. It’s a “crystal ball” that, put into more technical terms, captures and organizes the world’s disparate data streams and it’s geared toward helping companies understand what’s happening anywhere in the world—instantly.
Get this: Banjo has organized the world into a grid of 35 billion football field-sized squares. By capturing and analyzing all social and digital signals over time from each square, Banjo knows what constitutes “normal” for every part of the world. When that normal is disrupted—whether with an abnormal volume of posts, abnormal content (such as an image of a fire), or both—Banjo immediately knows.
Banjo CMO Stacey Epstein explains:
Banjo is providing an unmatched level of insight into global events and trends, both in real-time and historically. We’re doing this better than anyone else because we’re not just aggregating social posts or searching by keywords — we’re using sophisticated, built-from-scratch image recognition, geo-location and text analysis technology to genuinely and instantly understand what’s happening in a given piece of data and what it all means. People and organizations can then use that information to make better, faster decisions.
So when the Amtrak train tragically crashed in Philadelphia recently, Banjo was immediately aware of the accident. Before emergency responders even arrived on-scene, Banjo was capturing images and text posts from within the train cars. One of the local news stations is a Banjo Enterprise customer and was able to get that information immediately and begin in-depth coverage, even before national media picked it up.
Use cases are virtually endless and span from media organizations to brands, emergency response, financial institutions and beyond.
For brands and marketers, one aspect of Banjo’s technology that’s particularly beneficial is the ability to instantly recognize the presence of your brand in an image or photo—even when there is no accompanying text. For example, if someone shares a photo of their bachelor party and one of the guys in the back row is holding up a beer can, Banjo’s image recognition will pick up on that logo. This lets brands understand how people interact with their brand on a daily basis and provides much deeper insight into brand perception and usage than the small percentage of customers who explicitly tag the brand in their image. Up until now, marketers could only scratch the surface—using things like keywords or hashtags—when it came to seeing how consumers engage with their brand around the world. Banjo changes that in a profound way.
Of course it takes a lot of computing power to keep a system like Banjo running. “The sheer volume of what we’re able to do in the way of data computation globally still blows me away. Currently, our computers process about 1 quadrillion computations every 10 seconds, and we’ll be up to 1 quadrillion per second by the end of the year,” Stacey says.
A Bold Vision
Banjo’s vision is bold: to push beyond social data and ultimately integrate any and all available public data streams from around the world into Banjo’s platform—everything from traffic cameras, national weather and USGS earthquake data to financial/transactional data and beyond. This is how the company plans on building the world’s first crystal ball. The company considers this the biggest data challenge today.
A Turning Point
Originally, Banjo was designed as a location-based ephemeral messaging app. CEO Damien Patton attended SXSW in 2011 with the product fully built, but he saw just how prevalent messaging apps had become. He decided the vision then wasn’t big enough. By April 2013, the Boston Marathon bombings prompted the true turning point. Right after the bombings, Damien used Banjo’s existing technology to “rewind time” and see everything that happened in Boston that day. We looked at videos, pictures and text from right before, during and after the explosion, showing that it was in fact the result of a bomb and not an accidental explosion. Damien realized that if we could automate this process of instantly capturing and understanding events occurring around the globe, Banjo could make a much more significant impact.