I began reviewing Recorded Future as a PR tool – a mere resource to get news material for Everything PR News. It soon became clear that Recorded Future was much, much more. Terms like analytics, beyond search, and business intelligence are not new, of course, but no one, literally no one, has ever given them more meaning than Recorded Future with their temporal analytics engine. So much meaning, that the company has already caught the attention of two other entities that love “intelligence” beyond search: Google and the CIA.
Before diving into paranoid scenarios, where Google and the US intelligence control the web, understand that Recorded Future deals exclusively with public information, the kind of information you publish on the Internet voluntarily. What Recorded Future does is monitoring this information, analyzing data and projecting the when and where. Things get even deeper, but the logic behind the temporal analytics engine is rather obvious, and the only logical question that comes to mind is: why weren’t others doing it before. A few possible answers come here, but the most likely is not because they couldn’t. It’s because, instead of focusing on innovation, they were focusing on miming innovation.
Pushing the Innovation Envelope
It’s not easy to explain what Recorded Future does in secular terms. For those living by the rules of modern search, a prediction engine doesn’t make much sense. Most of the people using the web want instant gratification – they are looking for the now. This is the common denominator of social networking – this is what makes the like of Twitter a success, and this is what fuels the media.
But when we talk about marketing, PR and other disciplines that depend on business intelligence, Recorded Future is definitely pushing the envelope. Below is an example of using Recorded Future to gather information about patents in the UE. There are two temporal delimitations I used: anytime and in the next 12 months. The engine brought me relevant information in a matter of seconds. On topics that require more data processing, expect to wait a bit longer.
If it’s the how you care about, Recorded Future is pretty transparent. The engine looks beyond direct links between documents, searching for those “invisible links” that talk about the same, or related, entities and events. While other media monitoring tools only give information on things that happened in the past (or, in best-case scenarios, in real time), Recorded Future, as the name implies, tells you what will happen in the near future, or later, depending on a number of factors. These are summarized in the diagram below:
Translating for all: since most of the online documents have a time and space dimension (articles have dates, press releases announcing future events the same, etc) predicting the future is apparently easy – after all, everything is there, available for scrutiny at any time. But on the web, quality information is most of the times obscured by thousands of other pages related one way or another. Recorded Future cuts through the bulk to deliver what matters.
The easiest way to explain this is from the news journalist’s perspective. News alerts like Google’s always bring you information after the fact (after being published, often by hundreds of other publications). As a journalist, you know that in order to provide value for your readers, you have to be among the first reporting the news. When companies send you exclusive information via email or other means, you are in luck. When you get a “tip” that something will happen before anyone else, you are in luck again.
Consider Recorded Future such a source – an entity able to deliver relevant information before it happens. As with any tip you get, your main duty as a journalist is to check your facts and make sure you have your facts straight before your story goes to print. Recorded Future simplifies your work a great deal, by searching for relevant information ahead of time, and delivering relevant alerts (and information) to your mailbox as often as you like (daily, weekly, or as it happens).
The way the information is gathered was already illustrated above, but to emphasize how Recorded Future brings value in the end, let me rephrase the obvious: the engine searches with the four W’s of writing in mind – What, Who, Where and When are all there. You’ll only need to figure out the why… and Recorded Future delivers all the information you need to get smart.
A simple list of search results doesn’t bring much without an analytics component. You can take the search results and run them through other analytics software, of course, but Recorded Future does provide the invaluable “momentum” analytics with a rich flow of information about an entity/event, as illustrated here.
It may appear difficult to manage, but the UI is actually logical and discoverable. A wealth of tutorials are also available, as well as one-on-one demo. It may not be your usual monitoring tool, that delivers tacky graphs and answers – because it is smarter than the average media monitoring tool. You need to understand what you see, and you need to figure out possible uses for Recorded Future.
Use Recorded Future to…
Aside “extreme” uses, imagine Recorded Future working for you to predict your competitor’s next moves – the corporate intelligence use previously mentioned as a buzz term. You can also identify events over time related to a specific person – especially when we speak about someone who makes the headlines often enough to matter, like a VIP, corporate CEO, country head, actor and so on. You can even use it to see what the “little people” were up to – see their career history and announced job changes.
Or you could use Recorded Future for media analytics – to monitor brands (as in yours versus your competitor’s); you can use it for journalistic purposes (to learn what happens next with an entity/event you want to cover on your publication). You can use it for client development, M&A research, and litigation management; or to simply visualize relationships between firms, products, analysts, and their key stakeholders. Yes, there are as many uses as ideas…
There are a few limitations now, like having a relatively narrow list of whats and wheres, but give it time: Recorded Future already knows tomorrow, and they will add more functionality to what’s already in store.