Hi-tech firm takes fight to crime the 21st century way
Some of the brightest brains from the worlds of law, security, technology and business have come together in Belfast and are using their hands-on expertise in conflict resolution, risk management and child protection to fight bullying, abuse and human trafficking using the latest computer and mobile science. Clare Weir visited Ineqe to find out more.
On the wall of the office of security technology firm Ineqe (short for 'innovative' and 'unique') in south Belfast is a picture of the Titanic sinking in the North Atlantic.
Perhaps not the most comforting image for a company that was established less than two years ago, but as chief executive officer Jim Gamble points out: "We keep that painting here as a reminder that it doesn't matter how good you think the technology is or how good people think it looks, unless the right people do the right thing at the right time."
And here on Upper Crescent, three former police officers think the time is now right to take their fight against crime into the 21st century.
The company provides a range of services around making people 'safe and secure' with key areas of expertise including child safeguarding and social media, combining their own security knowledge to produce mobile phone applications aimed at increasing the safety of young people in the online environment.
Ineqe is currently working with a number of international NGOs and charities and in Northern Ireland has already developed apps for the Police Federation, Edwards & Co solicitors and the firm is currently working with the Irish Football Association, Belfast City Council and Positive Futures.
Jim (right) is well known in Northern Ireland, having worked in counter-terrorism, organised and hi-tech crime prevention and child protection, including a spell as head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection unit.
He has been joined by Bill Woodside, a specialist in risk mitigation, crisis management, emergency planning, security and training.
A former past-president of the European Association of Air and Seaports, he has designed and managed some of the largest simulated training exercises in the UK and training modules for emergency services in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The third director is Gary White, who recently retired from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. A former Chief Superintendent, Acting Assistant Chief Constable and President of the Superintendent's Association of Northern Ireland, he has assisted in developing policing in Bolivia, Sri Lanka and Iraq.
As well as a staff of 12 in Belfast, including Ronnie Cartmill, former head of trainer development at the Northern Ireland Police College, and computer whizz and app developer Sakil Barbhuiya, the Ineqe Group has over 130 associates across the globe who can deploy at short notice at home or abroad. With such a high-profile policing pedigree, it's no surprise that the Ineqe team frequently has the ears of top names in companies including Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft.
Alongside that painting of the Titanic, there's also a personal letter from Bill Gates and Jim was a major campaigner for the installation of the 'report' button on Facebook, allowing users to flag inappropriate behaviour or content.
As well as hosting conferences and training courses all over the world, the company prides itself on delivering the ABLE method – an App-based learning experience – put simply, putting all the information one could glean from a conference or course in your pocket on a mobile phone to be accessed at any time.
Ineqe has also teamed up with Queen's University to deliver courses endorsed by the Institute of Leadership and Management.
The company recently launched an App for leading Belfast solicitors Edwards and Co, who are believed to be the first legal firm in Northern Ireland to have its own App, which can take the user direct to a specialist lawyer.
Another feature is a unique 'evidence gathering' method which allows the user to take a photograph of an incident or injury and send it directly to a solicitor. However the picture cannot be saved to the phone's library, where it could be edited or modified by the less scrupulous potential claimant.
The company's App for the Police Federation for Northern Ireland gives direct access to local representatives, contains information about pension and benefits schemes and allows members to access direct video content and messages from Terry Spence, chair of the organisation, effectively making the App a personal TV channel.
Other Apps include the The how to be (h2b) Safer for iPhone app which shows 'how to' change iPhone settings to ensure content is safer for you or a child using the device, by blocking inappropriate music or video content and the CFAB (Children and Families Across Borders) app, which details how to spot signs that a child may have been trafficked.
Similar Apps help parents and teachers identify whether children could be victims of bullies or even more sinister elements, like paedophiles.
Most of the Apps will allow the user to go back and review the information and test the user on their confidence with true/false questionnaires once all modules have been read.
The Apps are able to remember what the user has done wrong and can take them back to the pertinent points.
Jim said that such applications can help deliver information – either in print or through short video tutorials – that could take lots of time and money to explain to an audience full of delegates.
"These are high-impact, low-cost solutions that can deliver instant information in vital situations," he said. "Conferences and training courses are a huge part of what we do, and a lot of our work comes to us because we have that background in policing and security.
"But equally we need to be able to get that information out quickly to people who are out on the street using the latest technology possible in the most remote corners of the world and it needs to be credible information."
Gary said: "I definitely think that our individual backgrounds and expertise have helped us cement our reputation.
"It may seem like we offer a very disparate range of services but they are all related and technology is key to that.
"We can offer solutions to a company halfway across the world, or we can say in the likes of the Police Federation App, if disorder breaks out on the streets of Belfast, Terry Spence can be here in 10 minutes, we can film him making a speech and a personal message to 7,000 members can be sent out via the App in minutes," he added.
"The client comes to us and we deliver them a package and with expertise both on the streets of Northern Ireland during some very tough times and working in some very far flung places like Burma or Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan, we have a very broad range of skills but all relating to safety and security."
He added: "We provide security but not in a traditional sense – we are not putting feet on the street in Kabul but we are providing clients like charities and NGOs with support and help them to develop solutions that are self-sufficient and can be updated quickly."
Conference to focus on child sex offenders
Ineqe is bringing together some of the most high-profile names in the fight against child exploitation at a conference in Belfast later this year.
'Inside the mind of a child sex offender' will feature speakers including Mark Williams-Thomas, the TV presenter, criminologist, child protection expert and former detective who unmasked Jimmy Savile as one of the UK's worst predatory paedophiles.
Also speaking will be Peter Spindler, former lead officer on operation Yew Tree, the most complex criminal investigation into high-profile offenders of its kind, and Dr Joe Sullivan, one of the foremost global experts on offender character and behaviour, the principle developer of the Behavioural Analysis Unit and adviser on major police inquiries including the Madeline McCann and April Jones investigations.
Michael Bourke, the US Marshals Service chief psychologist and head of the US Marshals Behavioral Analysis Unit, and Ineqe chief executive Jim Gamble will also be speaking.
The event takes place on Monday, September 9 at Riddel Hall.