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5/31/2012
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Smartphone App Slices Big Data For Political Campaigns

Campaign Manager Dashboard app for iPhone and Android puts data on 100 million voters and powerful analytics in campaign workers' hands.

7 Examples: Put Gamification To Work
7 Examples: Put Gamification To Work
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Just in time for the 2012 presidential election season, a startup called 5ivepoints recently released an iPhone- and Android-based mobile application that puts big-data management, query, and canvassing capabilities into the hands of grassroots campaign workers.

5ivepoint's Campaign Manager Dashboard taps into information on 100 million registered voters and it applies the power of geolocation information and real-time data-gathering and analysis capabilities.

The app has only been available for a few weeks, but 5ivepoints says it's being used by Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen of Virginia and Republican congressional candidate Randy Altschuler of New York. It's also being used by the United Federation of Teachers, a New York-based advocacy group.

Campaign Manager Dashboard lets campaign workers log into their Campaign Headquarters home page, where they can catch up on campaign news, check the schedule of upcoming events, browse recent campaign photos, and call up a list of platform talking points.

[ Want more on NoSQL databases? Read MongoDB NoSQL Database Poised For Takeoff. ]

Campaign workers will spend most of their time on the "Missions" page, where they can share links to the app with friends and contacts and add virtual campaign "yard signs" on their Facebook or Twitter account.

The core of the app is its "Add a voter" feature, where campaign workers can enter the name, address, and contact information for would-be voters along with details such as what they think about the candidates, issues, and whether or not they're likely to vote. A campaign can add any number and description of tasks to the Missions page, and it's gamified, so volunteers can earn badges and win social recognition among fellow campaign workers as they complete missions.

5ivepoints asserts that the app's "Add a voter" function has the potential to change the way campaigns work. In a traditional campaign, workers canvas by using lists that include the names, addresses and party affiliation of registered voters. Campaign workers ask potential voters whether they've heard of their candidate and whether they're likely to vote for them. This data can then be collected and used on Election Day, when campaigns try to turn out the vote among likely supporters.

According to 5ivepoints, Campaign Manager Dashboard "puts the entire canvassing process on real-time, mobile steroids on smartphones." Behind the scenes on centralized servers, 5ivepoints has state-by-state data on nearly 100 million registered voters, and campaigns can add their own lists as well as third-party enrichment data with details on each voter's age, income, hobbies, political leanings, and more.

For security and privacy reasons, the information delivered to the mobile app is more limited. Authorized campaign workers can call up local registration information in a map view that shows voters on specific streets for door-to-door canvassing. Red, yellow, and green dashboard dials indicate how likely a specific voter is to support a given candidate. If a would-be voter isn't in the system--say, because they're not registered or because they recently moved--campaign workers can add them to the database. As workers complete their canvassing, the data is instantly uploaded back to centralized servers.

5ivepoints says its app can also be used to gather detailed feedback on hot-button issues that could motivate people to vote for a particular candidate. This is the sort of data that campaigns can use to make more intelligent use of campaign resources, according to 5ivepoint CEO Laurence Zuriff.

"With better insight on voters, you can start to draw correlations among different databases, such as social media databases and campaign lists, so you can target more effectively over time," Zuriff told InformationWeek.

The database behind the scenes at 5ivepoints is MongoDB, a NoSQL database that lets the developer move quickly and blend different types of data, including voter rolls, marketing lists, and social media data. It also supports deep multidimensional querying, according to Daniel Weitzenfeld, 5ivepoint's director of analytics.

"If a campaign wants to target female Democrats who love guns, that's a query that can be generated by a campaign worker or embedded in the application," Weitzenfeld explained during a demonstration at last week's MongoNYC conference. "The queries are dynamic; you can access any subset of [database attributes], and you can always including geospatial information so you can find voters by area."

Weitzenfeld said Campaign Manager Dashboard is no different from an app that lets you search for menu prices under $20, for example, or list nearby restaurants that are open late, serve burgers, or show sports on TV. "It's a complex query that's linked to geospatial information," he explained.

Zuriff said the Campaign Manager Dashboard will really shine on Election Day because poll workers will be able to use the app to continuously feed data to the campaign on who has voted, in real time. The campaign will then be able to push out "missions" to all available campaign workers in specific areas to contact voters who are most likely to support their candidate.

Zuriff said, "This will empower anybody associated with a campaign to turn out the vote on Election Day, and that's a very powerful tool."

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