The year 2015 saw the world wracked with fear of terrorism, as ISIL spread its tentacles throughout the Middle East. Massacres carried out under their banner in Paris and San Bernardino also escalated the crisis, drawing reaction from Western governments that will likely have far-reaching consequences.
Defending against attacks at home is currently the most important issue facing governments, and 2016 will like see surveillance greatly increase, despite fears that this will bring about a police state. There are two major problems with increasing surveillance, neither of which are about the oft cited invasion of privacy, a nebulous concept that is to this generation what religion was to the Spanish inquisition. Firstly, people fear that governments will use it to identify people they believe simply to be ‘subversives’, but in actuality pose no existential threat to the population, only to the government’s hold on power. This is not so much a problem with invasion of privacy, as it is a lack of trust in government. Secondly, there is the issue that surveillance could identify the wrong people, often through racial profiling. This is an issue with people’s inability to accurately analyze surveillance materials, and the application of predictive analytics to surveillance technologies could increasingly see this cease to be a problem.
There are a number of ways in which predictive analytics can help drive better surveillance. The development of video content analysis (VCA) software is in its early stages, but new algorithms for image analysis, especially facial recognition systems, are getting much better at identifying human faces, particularly in a crowd. Predictive analytics can also look at video surveillance to identify potentially threatening human behavior in public spaces by analyzing patterns found in video footage of similar past events.
Terrorism isn’t the only major concern facing the world in 2016. The global economy remains fragile, and many fear another financial crisis. Retail banks are still suffering the effects of the last one, and in this issue Elliot Pannaman examines how analytics could help them retain their dominance in the face of an increasing number of challenger banks.
Whatever the problems facing the world this year, it is likely that analytics will play a major role in tackling them. How successfully they are applied remains to be seen.
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