"data company" entries

Big data is helping EA level up

Electronic Arts CTO Rajat Taneja on big data's growing role in the video game world.

Electronic Arts (EA) isn’t the first company that comes to mind when you think of big data. Yet the gaming company is collecting increasing amounts of data about its online players, and as this data accumulates and gains steam, it falls under the big data category.

If a game maker like EA is considered a big data company, it could have implications for other companies we might not think of as typical big data generators. With that in mind, I got in touch with Rajat Taneja, chief technology officer at EA and a keynote speaker at the upcoming Strata Conference in California. Since Taneja came on board with EA in 2011, he’s helped steer the company’s technological initiatives, including understanding the impact this growing data store will have on the firm — both from a processing standpoint and how to use it to provide games and services customers want most. He says no matter what your company does, if you have constantly connected online services, you are very likely going to be dealing with lots of data.

Our interview follows. Read more…

A startup takes on “the paper problem” with crowdsourcing and machine learning

With a new mobile app and API, Captricity wants to build a better bridge between analog and digital.

Unlocking data from paper forms is the problem that optical character recognition (OCR) software is supposed to solve. Two issues persist, however. First, the hardware and software involved are expensive, creating challenges for cash-strapped nonprofits and government. Second, all of the information on a given document is scanned into a system, including sensitive details like Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information. This is a particularly difficult issue with respect to health care or bringing open government to courts: privacy by obscurity will no longer apply.

The process of converting paper forms into structured data still hasn’t been significantly disrupted by rapid growth of the Internet, distributed computing and mobile devices. Fields that range from research science to medicine to law to education to consumer finance to government all need better, cheaper bridges from the analog to the digital sphere.

Enter Captricity. The startup, which was co-founded by Jeff J. Lin and Kuang Chen, has its roots in the fieldwork on rural health Chen did as part of his PhD program.

“I was looking at the information systems that were available to these low-resource organizations,” Chen said in a recent phone interview. “I saw that they’re very much bound in paper. There’s actually a lot of efforts to modernize the infrastructure and put in mobile phones. Now that there’s mobile connectivity, you can run a health clinic on solar panels and long distance Wi-Fi. At the end of the day, however, business processes are still on paper because they had to be essentially fail-proof. Technology fails all the time. From that perspective, paper is going to stick around for a very long time. If we’re really going to tackle the challenge of the availability of data, we shouldn’t necessarily be trying to change the technology infrastructure first — bringing mobile phones and iPads to where there’s paper — but really to start with solving the paper problem.”

When Chen saw that data entry was a chokepoint for digitizing health indicators, he started working on developing a better, cheaper way to ingest data on forms. Read more…

Apple’s maps

Apple's maps problem isn't about software or design. It's about data.

Apple Maps screenshotI promise not to make any snarky remarks about Apple’s maps disaster, and the mistakes of letting a corporate vendetta get in the way of good business decisions. Oops, I lied. But it’s good to see that Tim Cook agrees, at least about quality of the maps. It’s humbling for a company like Apple to issue an apology.

The real issue isn’t the apology, but what happens next. Google seems to be in no hurry to submit a maps app. It’s unclear how much patience Apple’s customers have; on my Android phone, I probably use Google Maps more than anything else. Not having public transit information when I’m in New York would be a deal breaker for me. I suspect Apple’s fans are more loyal, but even that has limits. How long can the fanboys wait?

One article put Apple’s mapping efforts 400 years behind Google. That’s a lot of catch up. And Google certainly isn’t standing still: their addition of underwater photography to “street view” is spectacular, and may serve us well when sea levels rise. But that’s not the point, either. Apple doesn’t have to “catch up” to Google, though I’m sure they’d like to. They just have to get a product that’s good enough. I don’t think that’s a three-to-six-month proposition. But it could be done in a year or two. Read more…

Direct sales uncover hidden trends for publishers

Direct channels give publishers full access to their data streams.

A recent O'Reilly customer survey revealed unusual results (e.g. laptops/desktops remain popular ereading devices). These sorts of insights are made possible by O'Reilly's direct sales channel.

Survey results: How businesses are adopting and dealing with data

A glimpse into enterprise use of big data.

Feedback from a recent Strata Online Conference suggests there's a large demand for clear information on what big data is and how it will change business.

Strata Week: A home for negative and null results

Figshare wants research data, Accel makes a huge data investment, LinkedIn shares its DataFu.

Figshare relaunches with an eye toward making more research data accessible. Elsewhere, Accel invests $52.5 million in Code 42 and LinkedIn open sources DataFu.

The feedback economy

Companies that employ data feedback loops are poised to dominate their industries.

We're moving beyond an information economy. The efficiencies and optimizations that come from constant and iterative feedback will soon become the norm for businesses and governments.

Where is the OkCupid for elections?

Developers are using big data to match people with candidates.

What will be the "OkCupid for elections" in 2012? Open source app OkCandidate.com offers one approach and startup ElectNext is applying data analysis with an issue-matching engine.

Big data goes to work

Smart companies use data to ask the right questions and take swift action.

Alistair Croll looks at how data is shaping consumer expectations and how those expectations, in turn, are shaping businesses. He also examines where business intelligence stops and big data starts.