To Know Entity Resolution is to Love Entity Resolution
By Jeff Jonas, published April 6, 2022
I’ve been building entity resolution algorithms and tools for a very long time.
My work began in the 80s when my company was asked to help a credit bureau’s collection agency improve debtor matching, so they could avoid calling the same person twice for two different debts.
Then, in the 90s, we were tasked to help casinos better understand who they were doing business with by comparing their customer records against known subjects of interest (ranging from regulatory watch lists to the kids in the infamous MIT card count team). We eventually called this system Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness or NORA for short. It earned its name because the technology revealed hidden connections e.g., clever folks using different names, Social Security Numbers and birth dates to avoid detection.
Little did I know, at the time, that entity resolution was so fundamentally important everywhere, from anti-money laundering (AML) and customer relationship management (CRM) to insider threat and vendor due diligence.
What is entity resolution?
Entity resolution is the process of determining when real world entities are the same, despite differences in how they are described. Entity resolution is known by many names, including record matching, record linkage, data matching, data linkage, data deduplication, data dedupe, profile unification and more.
In the example below, entity resolution determines the two records on the left are for the same person or entity, despite many differences, while the third record on the right is a different entity, despite a difference of just one letter. Entities one and two are related due to a shared address and phone number.
Although determining who is who is the main activity of entity resolution, understanding relationships between entities increases entity resolution accuracy. Some examples of relationships are same household, organization hierarchies (including officers and directors), and known associates. These relationships not only improve accuracy, but also provide important context to improve analytics and decision-making. [Note: some use the terms relationship graphs, relationship networks, or connections to describe relationships.]
Examples of real-life entity resolution
- You find duplicates in your address book that should be deleted or combined. Entity resolution.
- Your favorite hotel chain has multiple loyalty club numbers for you. Each with different addresses you have used over the years. Entity resolution.
- An organization is sending you promotions to become a customer, but you’re already a customer. Entity resolution.
- The government lets a known terrorist into the country because they used a last name with one letter different from their name on a watchlist. Entity resolution.
- You see an unusual symbol and know it refers to the artist formerly known as Prince. Entity resolution.
- Your phone rings with your mom’s name displayed. The voice is your father’s and you say, “hi dad.” Entity resolution.
Why is entity resolution important?
Entity resolution is innate to intelligence. Any form of intelligence. It provides the first form of context before any other analysis begins. By context I mean: gaining a better understanding of something by taking into account the things around it.
In its simplest form, entity resolution is about accurate counting. Do you have three customers or just one? Is it really one company or several with similar names? Answers to these types of questions are required to reduce false positives, improve predictions and deliver better outcomes.
Anyone embarking on a digital transformation journey, deploying an enterprise data fabric, improving fraud detection and investigation capabilities, or creating more complete views of customers, patients, citizens, vendors, employees or others will benefit from high-quality entity resolution.
Once you truly appreciate the fundamental and essential nature of entity resolution, it’s hard not to love it!
Senzing delivers Smarter Entity Resolution®.
To learn more about Senzing, schedule a demo or read about how easy it is to add Senzing® entity resolution to commercial applications, enterprise systems or SaaS services.