“Above the Trend Line” – Your Industry Rumor Central for 9/18/2017

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Above the Trend Line: your industry rumor central is a recurring feature of insideBIGDATA. In this column, we present a variety of short time-critical news items grouped by category such as people movements, funding news, financial results, industry alignments, rumors and general scuttlebutt floating around the big data, data science and machine learning industries including behind-the-scenes anecdotes and curious buzz. Our intent is to provide you a one-stop source of late-breaking news to help you keep abreast of this fast-paced ecosystem. We’re working hard on your behalf with our extensive vendor network to give you all the latest happenings. Heard of something yourself? Tell us! Just e-mail me at: daniel@insidebigdata.com.  Be sure to Tweet Above the Trend Line articles using the hashtag: #abovethetrendline.

Let’s start this week’s installment of “Above the Trend Line” with some new industry partnerships, alignments and collaborations … CloudPassage, a leading cloud security automation provider, announced a partnership with Sumo Logic, a leading cloud-native, machine data analytics platform. Through this integration, IT Ops, DevOps, and security teams can share a comprehensive, real-time view of their security and compliance postures while rapidly detecting and containing attacks by correlating CloudPassage data with other data streams in Sumo Logic, including threat intelligence data. The partnership will provide an advanced security monitoring and closed-loop incident response solution for modern compute environments. CloudPassage® Halo® has been specifically designed to secure workloads in highly automated environments such as DevOps, CI/CD, containers, and public or private clouds. Sumo Logic can ingest security and compliance scans from CloudPassage and correlate the results with other sources such as threat intelligence, infrastructure and application data. The result is more complete situational awareness into security and compliance posture while removing blind spots … Databricks, provider of the Unified Analytics Platform and founded by the team who created Apache Spark™, and Looker, the data platform company, announced they have partnered to bridge the power of analytics and visualization for data scientists and analysts. In response to joint customer demand, Databricks and Looker are partnering to provide an intuitive way for business users and analysts to discover the powerful analytics results of Apache Spark … Syncsort, a global leader in data liberation, integrity and integration solutions for next-generation analytics, and ASG Technologies, a leading provider of proven solutions for information access, management and control, announced a partnership focused on combining their leading solutions and expertise in data quality and data governance. The partnership focuses on the highest levels of confidence in data to meet regulatory requirements and support data-driven business decisions.

In new people movement news, we learned … Pramata, the commercial relationship operations company, announced that Patrick D. Quirk has been named Executive Chairman to play a key role in Pramata’s sales and strategic alliances strategy going forward. Quirk will directly report to Pramata Founder and CEO Praful Saklani. Quirk joined Pramata’s Board of Directors in May of 2016. In his previous role as CEO of Emptoris, Quirk helped the company grow more than 200% in 2.5 years. He was responsible for an organization of 850+ global professionals with customers in over 40 countries, and oversaw the company’s acquisition by IBM. Previously, he held senior executive leadership positions at Oracle and PeopleSoft … Teralytics, a global venture-backed big data analytics and machine learning company headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland, has appointed Alastair MacLeod as CEO. Alastair’s extensive sales and business development experience, which he gained working with the world’s leading telecommunications and technology businesses, adds valuable commercial experience to the existing leadership team as Teralytics embarks on a new phase in its development. Having proven commercial viability with innovative technology, the company’s founders are bringing on a heavy hitting business executive to continue Teralytics’ growth to commercial success. Alastair’s immediate priority will be to accelerate the company’s growth by strengthening and expanding business development, advancing the company’s channel and partner activities and driving a customer-centric product roadmap to leverage the company’s exceptional technical capabilities. For more than twenty years, Alastair has held top executive positions at established telecommunications and private equity backed data and technology companies. He was previously CEO of EurotaxGlass’s, Managing Director at Solera and led the Business Services division at Orange. After appointing Alastair, Teralytics chairman and co-founder, Georg Polzer, is moving into the role of Chief Product Officer. He will focus on conceiving, developing and implementing the next range of Teralytics products that allow organizations and cities to leverage big data, gain insights on human mobility and benefit smart city development. The executive team will also include co-founder Luciano Franceschina as CTO and Robin Williamson (ex Google) as VP Engineering … BackOffice Associates, a leader in information governance and data stewardship solutions, announced that Stephen Webber has been named Chief Financial Officer. An EMC Corporation senior financial executive for nearly 20 years, Webber will oversee the company’s overall financial strategies and decisions moving forward, including the financial aspects of growth and internal development plans following BackOffice Associates’ recent investment by Bridge Growth Partners.

We heard of some new customer wins in the Big Data vendor ecosystem … DataStax, a leading provider of database software for cloud applications, announced that Elementum, a cloud-based supply chain platform, will use DataStax Enterprise (DSE) to develop an innovative and intelligent platform that provides its customers with an in-depth look at every step within their supply chain. With Fortune 500 customers that span the healthcare, food & beverage, industrial, consumer, retail, and technology sectors, Elementum’s business needs require a robust and highly adaptable platform. Elementum wanted to be able to roll out applications and services to all of their customers simultaneously, but were held back by the constraints of their database software. Elementum chose DSE as an integral part of their infrastructure to securely store and manipulate large amounts of data, solving a major challenge for their business … Information Builders, a leader in business intelligence (BI) and analytics, information integrity, and integration solutions, announced that Empire Airlines has implemented WebFOCUS Business User Edition as part of a bundled offering from Information Builders and Scale Computing called the Scale Analytics Appliance. Empire Airlines is using the appliance to deliver real-time data and insights to executives, managers, and operations-level personnel, with minimal involvement by IT professionals. The turnkey solution addresses a broad range of analytics needs, from data preparation and integration to self-service reporting and data discovery.

In the news products, services and solutions category, we learned … Seal Software, a leader in Contract Discovery and Analytics, announced that it has released the newest version of its award-winning platform. Incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP), Seal’s advanced technology performs automated discovery of contracts across the enterprise and brings them into a centralized repository for extracting all of the  valuable terms, provisions, and clauses buried in the text. Version 5.3 builds on Seal’s machine learning engine and analytics framework introduced in  Seal V4.0 with a new process called Active Learning which allows end users to quickly and intuitively create new machine learning (ML) models  without the need for data scientists, consultants or technical staff.

In new funding activity we heard … Aria Systems, a leader in helping enterprises grow subscription- and usage-based revenue, announced it has raised $18 million in new capital. The round was led by Madison Bay Capital with Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, InterWest Partners, and Venrock participating. The funding brings the total amount raised to date to $150 million and will enable Aria to continue its impressive growth trajectory – including recent wins and implementations at Generac, Italiaonline, Merrill Corp, Philips, Sungard Availability Services and Subaru – while providing unparalleled service to its enterprise cloud billing and monetization customers. In addition, Silicon Valley veterans Steve Reale, Managing Partner of Madison Bay Capital Partners, and Drew Harman, Director of InterWest Partners, are bringing their talent and expertise to Aria as the newest members of the company’s board of directors.

Regarding Apple’s recent new product announcements, we received a commentary by Pete Foley, CEO of Open Data Group about Apple’s use of AI and machine learning:

Apple’s introduction of new technologies and products incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning data models are prime examples of the need for analytic deployment competency. Companies interested in launching their own products and services driven by complex data models are going to face major development, deployment, and productions challenges based on the incongruent nature of the programing languages and complex schemas involved. In order for these products to get out quickly and efficiently, data science & IT teams will need to come together or risk the product’s success. With analytic deployment technology, IT and data scientists are brought together to deploy & scale more models, more often, with greater efficiency than ever. It’s a necessary step to compete with Apple’s as they try to extend their leadership position in machine learning and artificial intelligence products and services.”

And finally, here is an expose on how autonomous vehicle technology is advancing rapidly, but the need to deal with social, regulatory and legal issues will create significant—and necessary—speed bumps. The following opinion explains the impact on the insurance industry.

Michael Macauley, CEO of Quadrant Information Services, a leading supplier of pricing analytics services to property and casualty insurance carriers, says, “Engineering is no longer the holdup in getting driverless cars on the road in large numbers. As we’ve seen from announcements from companies such as Intel,1 Ford2 and Volvo3—among numerous others—the technology is all but ready to go. However, society as a whole—the world in which these vehicles will have to operate—is moving more slowly, and will continue to do so until some important issues are addressed.”

One key issue, Macauley notes, is security. The heart of an autonomous vehicle is a computer system, which is connected through the Internet to a network of sensing and control systems that govern the vehicle’s speed, direction and operational functions. Computer systems—as illustrated vividly by the global ransomware attack earlier this year that disrupted hospitals, corporations and government offices in 99 countries4—are susceptible to hacking.

Charlie Miller, a former engineer at Uber, has commented that before self-driving vehicles can become a reality, the vehicles’ architects will need to consider everything from the vast array of automation in these vehicles that can be remotely hijacked to the possibility that passengers themselves could use their physical access to an unmanned vehicle to sabotage it.5

This is not to say that the danger of hacking represents a permanent or insoluble barrier to the use of autonomous vehicles. Professor Engin Kirda, a systems, software and security expert who holds joint appointments in the College of Computer and Information Science and the College of Engineering at Boston’s Northeastern University, says, “In principle, any computerized system that has an interface to the outside world is potentially hackable.” Professor Kirda adds, however, that while rapid progress in creating complex systems is being made, good progress in systems security is also occurring, holding out the possibility for a high level of safety by 2027 or thereabouts.6

However, when it comes to societal perception—especially of a new technology—what is important is not just what is happening now, but what could happen. Automobile-related crime, such as theft, carjacking or the use of vehicles as weapons, is disturbing enough to the public when such activities rely on the actions of an individual (and presumably identifiable and findable) human being. When it’s something that could be perpetrated by anonymous hackers three countries away, and involves the potential not just of a locked-down hard drive but of potential abduction or bodily harm, it becomes a risk that people may simply be unwilling to take.

The fact that these cars can be hacked at all is extremely disturbing, Macauley notes, and it needs to be as close as humanly possible to 100 percent fixed before they’re put into widespread use. In addition to lawmakers and the general public, Macauley points out that this issue has major implications for the insurance industry.

Macauley noted that “to properly insure these vehicles and the people in them, carriers have to understand the risks involved. On the one hand, autonomous vehicles hold out a real hope for improved safety. The vast majority of wrecks—including those with fatalities—are the result of human error, which can be removed from the equation. On the other hand, some aspects of the technology—especially the potential for hacking—make risk evaluation very difficult. Just based on what we know now, I think it’s clear that autonomous vehicles are our future. But widespread adoption will be delayed by at least a decade—or however long it takes for the tech community—which hasn’t always been particularly empathetic to collaborating with policymakers, regulators, insurance providers and consumer advocates in addressing the significant social, regulatory and legal challenges that autonomous vehicles will create.”

  1. Hall-Geisler, Kristen, “Intel announces $250 million for autonomous driving tech,” TechCrunch, November 15, 2016.
  2. Bigelow, Pete, “Ford Promises Fully Autonomous Cars by 2021,” Car and Driver, August 16, 2016.
  3. Adamczyk, Ed, “Volvo builds its first self-driving car,” UPI, September 13, 2016.
  4. Larson, Selena, “Massive cyberattack targeting 99 countries causes sweeping havoc,” CNN, May 13, 2017.
  5. Greenberg, Andy, “Securing driverless cars from hackers is hard. Ask the ex-Uber guy who protects them,” Wired, April 12, 2017.
  6. Kornwitz, Jason, “The cybersecurity risk of self-driving cars,” Phys.org, February 16, 2017.


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