The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Peter Herr, Director of Product at Base Operations, a Washington, D.C.-based startup that aggregates global threat data to help businesses mitigate risks proactively. Herr discussed some of the challenges with operating in the crime analysis market.
Gillian Diebold: What is street-level threat intelligence, and how does it differ from other types of security intelligence?
Peter Herr: Street-level threat intelligence is the aggregation of billions of physical threat data points from around the world pulled together into a single platform. We use sophisticated visualizations and analytics to allow users to select any location around the world and interpret the multiple threat factors affecting that location. Security analysts can effectively zoom in and see what’s happening right in front of their office or hotel and assess the threat profile in the surrounding area.
Our differentiation is in the level of granularity in the Base Operations platform. Other threat intelligence platforms out there might operate at the city or neighborhood level, whereas we operate at the street level. We’re really providing insights to multinational organizations and employees of what’s happening on the ground across their global footprint of offices, travel locations, and where they do business.
Diebold: What are the benefits of street-level threat analysis?
Herr: The benefit of street-level threat analysis is to enable proactive risk mitigation. With a rise in catastrophic events in recent times, it’s never been harder for security teams to fulfill their duty of care and maintain business continuity. The threat landscape is changing, and physical security has never been more important for conducting business around the world.
Security teams can now quantitatively capture insights by assessing trend increases or decreases over time or analyzing seasonality and time of day across many threat vectors. Security analysts use Base Operations to answer questions like “how is the threat profile different at this office or hotel location as compared to other locations in this city” or “what does the threat profile look like at my location at night versus working hours?” Our customers may have an executive traveling internationally and attending business meetings and events, or they may be shipping products from one location to another, or they may need to assess their security operations across office and retail locations around the globe to ensure they are spending appropriately.
Diebold: What data sources do you use to aggregate crime data, and have you noticed any critical gaps in the data?
Herr: We pull threat data from tens of thousands of different data sources. This includes government data sources, police departments, NGOs, crowdsourced social media apps, and news.
Our data research and product development teams have established a methodology to qualify any data source before we bring them into the platform. This involves reviewing where the data is coming from, analyzing the different types of threats, and putting it through a validation process to assess the quality and reliability of the data. Based on that, we make a determination whether or not to include the data source in Base Operations.
So that’s one aspect of it. Additionally, Base Operations runs automated data quality reports and behind-the-scenes metrics on an ongoing basis to ensure our ingestions are up to date and accurate based on the latest information available. That could prompt us to go back to the source and say, “Hey, we’re seeing a gap in your data. Could you please send that?” The source will often then provide the missing data. We’re able to take care of the operational side of things and remove those questions from the equation so that our users can focus on preparing their assessments.
Diebold: What are the technologies behind the Base Operations platform?
Herr: Base Operations is a cloud-native SaaS product. Essentially, our technology is connecting to and sourcing data from all the different types of data sources we’ve talked about. We aggregate data from tens of thousands of sources through our data acquisition pipeline, where we ensure an optimal level of quality. We then apply natural language processing and machine learning to extract meaningful insights and metadata such as event types and location. We then pull that data into our application using a series of APIs to present this to security teams using sophisticated map visualizations and analytics.
Diebold: What is the biggest challenge for Base Operations as it seeks to stay competitive in the crime analysis market?
Herr: Security teams are tasked with more critical tasks and workloads than ever, and so the biggest challenge is to make sure that they are continuing to operate with the level of awareness and understanding of the risks that can impact their company – ensuring that they are doing enough to keep their people safe.
These are preventative tasks. With everything that’s happening in the world—whether it’s health-related issues, crime, or geopolitical—mitigating or preventing crises from affecting a company is more important than ever. This is where Base Operations comes into play. It’s transformative in terms of how our customers work. We’re transforming how our customers work by enabling them to perform complex quantitative threat assessments enabling new information and insights.