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Banjo App Created to be a Social Media Drone

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What started as a news app, gathering stories from social media, has become something much more complex and extensive. Banjo 1.0, created in 2011, was abandoned by its team when they realized that the software program acted as a near instantaneous and wholly unfiltered "event-detection engine". By using social media platforms, the data-mining engine can pinpoint what's happening in a specific place in the world at any given moment by cataloging posts from that area. Banjo 2.0 is a multi-faceted beast amassed with capabilities which stretch from its back like pins on a porcupine.

Covering the entire globe are 35 billion squares, each about the size of an American football field, which are constantly monitored by Banjo's software. Any geolocated public posts (don't be startled, you've made them public for a reason) uploaded from mobile devices are automatically organised by the grid respective of location. Will Bourne of Inc.com says it best, "Banjo does something no one has managed to do until now ... It imposes order on the vast chaotic cloud of social media and unlocks its power in ways we haven't yet seen."

Founder Damien Patton has found a way to translate the gobbledygook that is social media into an unparalleled resource, one based not on how many people you follow, but on how posts from designated locations can tell a comprehensive story. A "world feed" channels information from over a dozen social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, China's Weibo, Russia's VKontakte) and is searchable by location or event. For example, I rarely find news about my hometown online even though it promotes itself as the world's largest village with a reported population of 65,176 as of 2013. Those people don't seem to care much about having a social media presence, evidently. A quick search of the town name under the location tab and a map with several pins pops up which, when clicked, displays posts made from the area in real-time. Using Banjo, I am able to immediately connect to my beloved village from almost 4,000 miles away.

Fast Company

In addition to separating posts by location, content can be reviewed on a timeline of sorts, meaning that any posts made right before a catastrophic event, for example, can be surveyed for evidence. With the ability to perform over two quadrillion calculations on posts gathered in each moment, analyzing for linguistic and topic data, media classification and location, comes the natural compartmentalisation of every square on the grid. Banjo has gathered enough data over its 4 years to discern what's normal per square, whether the single-minded bustle on the streets of Chicago or bird sightings within a stretch of wooded paradise. As with all things routine, any hiccup is automatically picked up on by data monitors and assessed as something of import or not.

It was during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 that Patton realized the full potential of his software. By reviewing photos from the finish line, he was able to conclude that the explosion was caused by a bomb. Utilizing Banjo in this way, as a means to replay past happenings, Patton stumbled upon a veritable goldmine. The self-learning algorithm can identify patterns or pinpoint a disruption in said pattern, as was the case with the bombing.

After receiving new funding in 2015 from SoftBank, a neat sum of $100 million, Banjo was able to carry out their plans to make the app function like a "crystal ball", Patton's term to convey its ability to view anything, anywhere in the world, in real-time. At the time, Patton's goal was to add other information resources to paint a fuller picture of daily happenings by incorporating weather data and satellite imagery by hiring data scientists and engineers.

Free to use for both iOS and Android, a paid service is available with the price tag somewhere in the tens of thousands of dollars. Some of  Patton's customers include Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of 150 local TV stations across the country, Anheuser Busch and financial firms. Patton hopes that over time Banjo will evolve to suit every imaginable business.

Banjo
Banjo, based in Redwood City, CA, represents our evolved, Internet-obsessed mindset by delving into the field of visual listening, using photographs to pick up on information. You have to wonder just how much Banjo has on you.



Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver). Follow her @Songbird_Jacqui


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Banjo App Created to be a Social Media Drone Reviewed by Jacqueline Litvan on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 Rating: 5

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