December 16, 2018

RedCrow app gives users rapid updates on Middle East hot spots

RedCrow Intelligence doesn’t have a crystal ball. But for the past three years the online startup based in Ramallah, in the West Bank, has proven effective at predicting conflict in the Middle East, using proprietary algorithms. Its data have been invaluable to private-sector companies, government agencies and individuals involved in the region’s unstable political environment that are looking to stay out of harm’s way.

Established in August 2014 by Palestinian entrepreneurs Hussein Nasser-Eddin and Laila Akel, RedCrow was conceived as an online platform providing real-time intelligence about politically hot zones in the Middle East. Having started with the West Bank, the privately owned company today also covers developments in Jordan and Egypt. Users of its app receive instantaneous security information on their mobile phones.

The data enable users to make split-second decisions, based on the immediate security situation. For instance, is it safe to drive from one location to another on a certain road? RedCrow’s app provides a detailed map showing the location of security incidents, clashes and political marches. The app even reports on such details as a mentally disturbed individual seen running on a road. 

“Our systems are built on a set of algorithms to make sure the information provided is accurate,” said Nasser-Eddin, RedCrow’s 31-year-old CEO. The algorithms monitor and collect information and news from open sources, including social media and rich site summary, or RSS, a format for delivering regularly changing web content, he said.

The system automatically converts news and information into updated maps. Similar to the hugely popular app Waze, RedCrow shows the location for each incident, as well as statistics and text alerts, enabling drivers to detour around problems such as security roadblocks or traffic jams.

RedCrow has local and international clients, including Amideast, Care and Hemaya. 

The company has a track record in improving the virtual presence of “Palestine.”

“Over time, the accuracy of the information that RedCrow offers its clients has become more transparent,” said Ziad Abu Zayyad, a current RedCrow client. “For example, the application shows how many sources confirmed every piece of information sent to me. I am aware almost immediately of every incident taking place in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The service puts all information in a single place for you, rather than me searching for it.”

RedCrow filters out “fake news,” depending on reliable sources such as Facebook or Twitter accounts and trusted political activists. Similarly, the company reports only on developments that numerous individuals witnessed at the same time and place. “In addition to providing immediate security information, RedCrow provides long-term security informative maps,” Nasser-Eddin said. “For certain areas, that helps business owners make strategic decisions.”

Typically, these reports include under-reported news of a nonpolitcal nature and public opinion surveys.

“When the Arab Spring took place, I was certain that there was a need for security information,” Nasser-Eddin said. “We needed a platform to provide security facts and news. The media is biased. It shows and hides stories based on agendas.”

RedCrow’s Mass Media feature aggregates news from national, regional and international news channels. Among the scores of websites, news agencies and blogs, it constantly monitors Israeli and Palestinian news outlets and the Israel Defense Forces. “Mass Media filters news in different areas and provides only security-related news based on the end-user’s location,” said RedCrow co-founder Laila Akel.

The company has a track record in improving the virtual presence of “Palestine.” For example, in the past, activists accused Google of deleting “Palestine” from Google Maps.

In response, Google posted a statement online: “There has never been a ‘Palestine’ label on Google Maps. However, we discovered a bug that removed the labels for ‘West Bank’ and ‘Gaza Strip.’ We’re working quickly to bring these labels back to the area.”

Using Google Map’s layers for the West Bank as a base, RedCrow added landmarks and important places to create a secure and informative map.

RedCrow’s team, which started with three staffers, has grown to 13. “Our plan is to cover the Middle East in the coming two years,” Akel said.

RedCrow received an investment from the Ibtikar Fund — a venture capital company that invests in Palestinian startups.

“Ibtikar Fund invested in RedCrow for its valuable and much-needed product, and its experienced team,” an Ibtikar spokesman said. “Ibtikar will continue to work with the RedCrow team as it develops further products and services, and expands to cover the region.”