As election season heats up, opinion polls are on everyone’s mind.

Surveying the public’s views on any topic has always been a difficult process, plagued by labor-intensive phone banking and inaccurate samples of the population. But 3-year-old Reconnect Research thinks it has found a novel way to solve the problem: by taking advantage of human error.

Reconnect Research, a subsidiary of Westwood marketing analytics firm Dial800, has developed a polling and survey software program that redirects a small portion of the 5 billion misdialed, incomplete, or disconnected phone calls placed every year in North America to an automated touch-tone survey. This tactic results in surveys that are faster, cheaper, more accurate, and in compliance with robo-calling laws, said Scott Richards, the company’s chief executive.

“We get about 100,000 calls a day, about two calls a second,” he said. “This is the most representative sample that you can get anywhere.”

Among Reconnect’s clients is RTI International of Research Triangle Park, N.C., an outfit that conducts surveys for various government agencies. One recent survey queried Americans’ health habits, including exercise levels, drug usage, and hours of sleep.

The traditional method of outbound phone surveying often requires a team of operators making thousands of calls in order to get enough respondents. But as younger people have severed their landlines and adopted caller ID-equipped mobile phones, getting enough people to pick up the phone that accurately represent a sample of a larger population has become increasingly difficult. Conversely, internet surveys have failed to produce an accurate sampling of older people.

“It allows (researchers) to speak to people they aren’t be able to speak to, like millennials,” he said.

The survey and polling method is entirely automated, allowing users to enter in their demographic information and responses from a touch-tone phone. Because all of the calls are inbound, Reconnect avoids legal issues associated with robo-calling, said Richards, noting that Gallup Inc. settled a lawsuit for $12 million last year after being sued under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act for allegedly using auto-dialing.

As the method becomes better known, Richards said he hopes it pushes out more traditional methods of researching and polling.

Cartoon Cash

Snapchat of Venice last week confirmed that it had acquired Bitstrips of Toronto, the developer of the Bitmoji app, which allows users to create personalized virtual avatars that can be sent using various chat platforms such as such as Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage.

The deal involves a mix of cash and stock valued at around $100 million, according to a March report in Fortune. At the time, Snapchat declined to comment.

Bitstrips also features sponsored avatar designs. For example, a current campaign allows users to send a cartoon of themselves as a character in the newly released “Ghostbusters” film.

Snapchat said in a blog post that the Bitmoji app can now be linked with its own product so users can send each other cartoons.

Snapchat Chief Executive Evan Spiegel was portrayed in the app this week after he proposed to his girlfriend, model Miranda Kerr, who posted a photo to Instagram featuring Bitstrips-created cartoons of the pair re-enacting the event.

Snapchat, which has raised more than $2.6 billion in outside funding, also acquired animation app Looksery of Ukraine for a reported $150 million in September. That app overlays pictures and videos with motion graphics.

Blastoff

Kicking off a busy summer, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne launched one of its rockets on a resupply mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to the International Space Station last week.

The company has officially scheduled 17 launches for this year, nearly tripling the company’s six rocket launches in 2015, according to Spaceflight Now.

The firm’s ability to keep pace with its own schedule will be tested this summer as SpaceX starts launching multiple rockets a month. Several rocket launches this year were delayed from their original mission dates in 2015.

On its most recent mission, SpaceX’s Drago cargo spacecraft carried scientific experiments, crew supplies, and hardware to the International Space Station. This was the company’s ninth commercial resupply service mission and seventh launch this year. The mission’s booster rocket also landed vertically back at Cape Canaveral, marking the fifth such vertical landing for the company.

Staff reporter Garrett Reim can be reached at greim@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 232.

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