A partnership forged from the barrel of a gun

Elizabeth Howell
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bitHeads and Caribbean company team up to fight crime

Buoyed by a vision of better bullet analysis, Mike Barrett has spent the last two months shooting from country to country with his new technology.

ALIAS, software developed by bitHeads, provides and efficient way of analyzing bullet casings. (Image supplied)

"We started off in Europe, went to the Middle East, then to South America and Central America, and wound up in this sunny capital here," Mr. Barrett, chief executive of Barbados-based Pyramidal Technologies, said from an Ottawa hotel room on a bright day in late December.

He was in town to meet again with bitHeads, the lead developer on the software that allows bullets to be digitally scanned, manipulated and analyzed faster than other commercially available software, the two firms say.

"Mike and his team would come up with the algorithm, the super-secret sauce that makes their tool so unique and special," said Scott Simpson, chief executive of bitHeads, a three-time winner of OBJ’s Employees’ Choice awards.

"We build a software application around that, and we translate those algorithms into real code."

The tool is called ALIAS, an acronym for Advanced Ballistics Analysis System.

Because it cuts down on the amount of work humans need to do to match bullets to crime scenes and guns, Pyramidal said it lets crime-scene investigators do their work more efficiently and, potentially, cut down on the amount of time taken to gather evidence to solve crimes.

The three-step software is so easy to use that in audience demonstrations, Mr. Barrett said, he can pull an untrained person out of the crowd and have them doing elementary work in just 10 to 15 minutes.

"Oftentimes, this group of people (we’re selling to) – I am one of them, skeptical by nature – they never take anything at face value. But once they figure out the ropes, a lot of times they become believers."

Mr. Barrett began his forensics career in 1982 as a firearms examiner in Sackville, N.B. By 1990, he felt confident enough to branch out on his own and founded Forensic Technology, a company he ran for about seven years.

Now with Pyramidal, it was a two-year vision that drove Mr. Barrett to complete his software. Six months in, he recruited bitHeads to help him out.

Half a world separates Barbados and Canada, but Mr. Simpson said Mr. Barrett made visits as often as he could.

Plus, bitHeads is used to working independently, without a client “in the office next door banging on the door, asking when this is going to be done.”

With his whirlwind sales trip to law enforcement agencies, military groups and other clients wrapped up, Mr. Barrett said he’s waiting to hear the results, but expects to cut some deals early in the new year.

"We've told our clients that this a product that is never going to be finished," Mr. Barrett said.

"The next thing that we’re working on is a handheld unit that will generate investigative leads at the crime scene. You can imagine something like an iPad – a little black box scanner attached to it, and you send the information wirelessly to a hub."

As for Mr. Simpson, he said when Mr. Barrett has his next product idea, bitHeads is more than willing to take it on.

"We do like to keep our clients, if at all, forever," he joked. "I'm an inherently lazy man. I like to do sales as little as possible."

Organizations: Pyramidal Technologies, Ottawa hotel, Advanced Ballistics Analysis System

Geographic location: Caribbean, Europe, Middle East South America Central America Sackville Barbados Canada

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