Artificial Intelligence

Insight with impact: deploying analytics on the front line

25th October 2019
Lanna Cooper

The impact of analytics on our daily lives can sometimes feel abstract and indirect. Even important decisions made using analytics - like an employer deciding whether to give you an interview - often take place behind a screen, in a location far away from us.

By Seb Charrot, Senior Software Development Manager at SAS UK & Ireland

Data-driven decisions like these are no less important to us, but I’ve always been interested in the more direct application of analytics. This is analytics at the edge, deployed in real time to solve real problems for real people.

There is no better place to see the real world potential of analytics than on the frontline of our emergency services. Out in the field, access to relevant information can be the difference between life and death.

Fortunately, we can get this insight to remote workers like police officers and investigators faster than ever using a combination of mobile analytics, AI and data visualisation.

AI that fits in your pocket

One of the most exciting fields in analytics currently is AI, and a particular branch of AI called machine learning. The true value of this technology lies in its ability to generate tremendous value by unlocking the information, patterns and behaviours hidden from human eyes in massive volumes of data.

However, while you can build and refine a machine learning model to hit peak performance, it’ll do little good unless it can be deployed where it matters most. It needs to operate and share valuable insight where the decisions are made. This isn’t only back in the command centre where strategy is made, it’s out on the beat where a split-second decision by an officer can help to save a life.

This is the reason my team and I built SAS Mobile Investigator, an application that allows caseworkers, investigators and officers in the field to receive tasks, be notified of risks and concerns regarding their case load or coverage area, and raise reports on the go.

Mobile Investigator can consume the results of, and feed directly into, AI. So alerts, tasks, and data can be generated from AI processes, which are then surfaced in Mobile Investigator. Similarly, data created from Mobile Investigator can be fed into AI solutions to derive better results.

To access the app, all the user needs to do is install it on their smartphone. This means that no matter how far away they are from the office, officers and investigators always have access to the insight, reports and support they need to get the job done.

If that still seems intangible, here is how it works in action: it used to be the case that a police officer working in the Child Protection Unit (CPU) would have to return to the office anytime they needed to access further  information about at-risk children to whom they’d been assigned.

With SAS Mobile Investigator, all they need to do is open the app on their phone. From here, they can access CPU systems in order to determine the most vulnerable children on their beat, with all relevant background information easily at hand. AI techniques can even analyse which child is most likely to be acutely at risk, informing the officer and ensuring they check with them in good time.

The true value of analytics

Having data and AI-generated insight at our fingertips radically changes how we make decisions. It may cause a frontline officer to reassess their original approach. Instead of visiting the next child on their schedule - which is based on hours of office research - they have the insight to go to the child who faces the greatest risk at that very moment.

Real time decisions like these can make all the difference. Ultimately, analytics helps us make better, more accurate and impactful decisions, and society as a whole can benefit.

When you make analytics tangible by putting it directly into the hands of our protectors and public servants, you realise its true value. Analytics shouldn’t be locked away in a data centre or in the cloud, accessible and understandable only to those with expertise in data science.

When everyone has access to the power of analytics combined with their own expertise in their field, everyone’s job becomes easier and more productive.

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