ARTICLES

How Teams Can Share Data Automatically

Busy people are often proud of their ability to multitask. And doing so effectively can be impressive. But multitasking can also be messy.

Ever stop to wonder: “Where did I see that article?” Or “Where did I file those notes?” When it’s time to try to pull together several related tasks, it can get complicated. And if you’re part of a team of multitaskers, and you’re all trying to share those articles, and notes, and briefs, and court opinions—well, good luck with that.

Maybe you don’t want to rely on luck. Maybe you’d prefer a tool that can multitask for the entire team. Polarity could be the solution you didn’t know you needed.

Paul Battista is the company’s CEO and founder. During a recent briefing for TAG Cyber, he demonstrated the ease and speed with which the software can pull and overlay information you may need for your research. There are times when the program can seem intuitive. If you’re researching a company in Athens, for example, you may find a map of Athens overlaid on your screen with notes on the company from a co-worker, waiting to be consulted.

Or let’s say you’re reading a contract that begins (as so many do) by defining all the terms. You can pull the definitions into Polarity, Battista said, and then, as you read the contract, anytime you hover over a term in the text, they’re right there.

Battista calls the concept “augmented reality for your data.” No headset required. It’s all on your screen. And if you’re working as a member of a team, it adds information in real time that a colleague has just found to the “collective memory” you share. So you don’t have to remember to pass it around. And you’re not left wondering whether the others are making progress. You automatically—literally—collaborate.

Battista turned to the legal sphere. Suppose an in-house lawyer is leading an incident response investigation, he said. That would be a perfect example. The work needs to be thorough, accurate and fast. Sharing the data is a must. But the ability to annotate and overlay additional information in real time would be a big plus, wouldn’t it? And you can do that almost effortlessly because Polarity overlays on any work-flow. And all of the information you gather follows you, no matter what application you’re using. It’s all there.

Another convenient feature is that the information can be color-coded. You can assign different shades to each of your collaborators, so that you instantly know who supplied what. Or you can assign colors to each topic, or use another organizing principle. The data can also be shunted to channels to separate informational and actionable materials.

What about access to data? Lawyers are likely to be particularly sensitive to this, Battista noted. A team can control access to the data it’s accumulating. And the team itself may be limited by the permissions that already govern the data it’s attempting to review.

Battista understands the importance of controlling data. He was a CIA intelligence officer for five years before he began working on the software that turned into Polarity. He’s always been an entrepreneur, he said. In the Agency, he worked on security tools designed to enable analysts to do their work.

He likes building prototypes. He had a gaming company while he was still working for the Agency. During the 2010 blizzard in Washington, D.C., that came to be known as “Snowmageddon,” he built a zombie shooter game for cell phones. He built it in two weeks, released it, and people were buying it like crazy a week later. “Hey, this is easy,” he thought. Who needs marketing?

The next time he built a game, no one bought it. He’d built the first one during a zombie craze. That’s why it sold itself. The second attempt taught him a valuable lesson, he said.

Battista and his co-founders, Edmund Dorsey and Joseph Rivela, began working on the Polarity prototype in 2014. The experience that gave them the idea was a painful one. A year after starting a security services company, they were trying to keep track of the myriad IP addresses in an investigation. They were reduced to writing down the addresses on a white board and, when it was full, taking a photo, erasing the board and starting again. Then they had to keep checking the board against the photos to avoid duplications. Everything they did to be thorough slowed the investigation.

The painful choice between speed and diligence inspired them to invent a better way. They needed to quickly gather and share vast quantities of information. Their prototype focused on data related to security investigations because that was the pain point they were living with, but it quickly became apparent to them that this tool would prove useful for a wide range of projects. Ultimately they came up with a mission statement: “Enable superhuman data awareness and recall to empower users to see the story in their data.”

Polarity worked with two beta customers from 2014 to 2016 and released version 1 during the Black Hat security conference in 2016. Headquartered in Farmington, Connecticut, the privately held company has the backing of several large customers and well-known VC investors.

Battista avoided trying to rush the product to market. He was determined to “nail it,” he said. While the inspiration was IP addresses, in a world that generates more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each and every day, the CEO is convinced there are lots of people who need help in order to share the right data at the right time.