IBM's predictive crime software is not Minority Report

IBM has told TechEye that its analytical software, which helps police forces pin-point crime, is completely different to the Minority Report film, despite every single technology correspondent keen to make that comparison.

Colin Shearer at IBM told TechEye that comparing the IBM’s software to Minority Report was all hype.

“It’s a spurious connection and the media ran with it,” he told us. “In fact the system is quite the opposite.” 

“Effectively, decision working is always something that’s been done in the police force, they use their research but now also adds in mathematics, which is where IBM comes in. The IBM software is based on predictive analytics. It looks at records that have already been gathered by the force, for example graphs, witness statements and changes and analyses this into a set of algorithms, which looks at when the crimes have happened and locations.”

He added that the software also builds predictive models to alert police where their may be higher instances of crime. For example it will look at an event such as a festival, the circumstances like maybe payday and the weather, e.g. sunny, to determine if all these factors will contribute to a higher crime rate.

According to IBM, coppers in Memphis, USA have been using this to pinpoint crimes that may happen throughout the day.

John Williams, of the Memphis Crime Analysis Unit, told The Observer: “This is more of a proactive tool than reacting after crimes have occurred.

“This pretty much puts officers in the area at the time that the crimes are being committed.”

There are also police forces in the UK using this software, however IBM could not comment on which ones. And it’s not just police forces who are using this technology. According to IBM banks and the public sector are also making the most of it to find out customers thoughts and to match them up with a suitable bank account, while governments are using it to collate public opinion.

IBM said it had spent around $11 billion on analytics but was unable to tell us how much this would cost a business to implement.

Mr Shearer said this was because smaller companies would require less of an integration, while bigger companies such as the police force need systems which decipher many sources.

Here is the plot for Minority Report, from Wikipedia. Notice how psychic “Pre-cogs” sit in bathtubs and are described as “mutated humans with precognition to view murders that occur in the future.”

Analytics it is not.