Posts focusing on the use of database and analytic technologies in specific application domains. Related subjects include:
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- (in Text Technologies) Specific application areas for text analytics
What will soft, mobile robots be able to do that previous generations cannot? A lot. But I’m particularly intrigued by two large categories:
- Inspection, maintenance and repair.
- Health care/family care assistance.
There are still many things that are hard for humans to keep in good working order, including:
- Power lines.
- Anything that’s underwater (cables, drilling platforms, etc.)
- Pipelines, ducts, and water mains (especially from the inside).
- Any kind of geographically remote power station or other installation.
Sometimes the issue is (hopefully minor) repairs. Sometimes it’s cleaning or lubrication. In some cases one might want to upgrade a structure with fixed sensors, and the “repair” is mainly putting those sensors in place. In all these cases, it seems that soft robots could eventually offer a solution. Further examples, I’m sure, could be found in factories, mines, or farms.
Of course, if there’s a maintenance/repair need, inspection is at least part of the challenge; in some cases it’s almost the whole thing. And so this technology will help lead us toward the point that substantially all major objects will be associated with consistent flows of data. Opportunities for data analysis will abound.
Most IT innovation these days is focused on machine-generated data (sometimes just called “machine data”), rather than human-generated. So as I find myself in the mood for another survey post, I can’t think of any better idea for a unifying theme.
1. There are many kinds of machine-generated data. Important categories include:
- Web, network and other IT logs.
- Game and mobile app event data.
- CDRs (telecom Call Detail Records).
- “Phone-home” data from large numbers of identical electronic products (for example set-top boxes).
- Sensor network output (for example from a pipeline or other utility network).
- Vehicle telemetry.
- Health care data, in hospitals.
- Digital health data from consumer devices.
- Images from public-safety camera networks.
- Stock tickers (if you regard them as being machine-generated, which I do).
That’s far from a complete list, but if you think about those categories you’ll probably capture most of the issues surrounding other kinds of machine-generated data as well.
2. Technology for better information and analysis is also technology for privacy intrusion. Public awareness of privacy issues is focused in a few areas, mainly: Read more
1. A couple years ago I wrote skeptically about integrating predictive modeling and business intelligence. I’m less skeptical now.
- The predictive experimentation I wrote about over Thanksgiving calls naturally for some BI/dashboarding to monitor how it’s going.
- If you think about Nutonian’s pitch, it can be approximated as “Root-cause analysis so easy a business analyst can do it.” That could be interesting to jump to after BI has turned up anomalies. And it should be pretty easy to whip up a UI for choosing a data set and objective function to model on, since those are both things that the BI tool would know how to get to anyway.
I’ve also heard a couple of ideas about how predictive modeling can support BI. One is via my client Omer Trajman, whose startup ScalingData is still semi-stealthy, but says they’re “working at the intersection of big data and IT operations”. The idea goes something like this:
- Suppose we have lots of logs about lots of things.* Machine learning can help:
- Notice what’s an anomaly.
- Group* together things that seem to be experiencing similar anomalies.
- That can inform a BI-plus interface for a human to figure out what is happening.
Makes sense to me.
* The word “cluster” could have been used here in a couple of different ways, so I decided to avoid it altogether.
Finally, I’m hearing a variety of “smart ETL/data preparation” and “we recommend what columns you should join” stories. I don’t know how much machine learning there’s been in those to date, but it’s usually at least on the roadmap to make the systems (yet) smarter in the future. The end benefit is usually to facilitate BI.
2. Discussion of graph DBMS can get confusing. For example: Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Greenplum, Hadoop, Hortonworks, Log analysis, Neo Technology and Neo4j, Nutonian, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, RDF and graphs, WibiData||1 Comment|
MapR put out a press release aggregating some customer information; unfortunately, the release is a monument to vagueness. Let me start by saying:
- I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing Derrick Harris was incorrect in suspecting that this release was a reaction to my recent post about Hortonworks’ numbers. For one thing, press releases usually don’t happen that quickly.
- And as should be obvious from the previous point — notwithstanding that MapR is a client, I had no direct involvement in this release.
- In general, I advise clients and other vendors to put out the kind of aggregate of customer success stories found in this release. However, I would like to see more substance than MapR offered.
Anyhow, the key statement in the MapR release is:
… the number of companies that have a paid subscription for MapR now exceeds 700.
Unfortunately, that includes OEM customers as well as direct ones; I imagine MapR’s direct customer count is much lower.
In one gesture to numerical conservatism, MapR did indicate by email that it counts by overall customer organization, not by department/cluster/contract (i.e., not the way Hortonworks does). Read more
|Categories: Hadoop, Health care, MapR, Market share and customer counts, Pricing, Telecommunications||2 Comments|
Datameer checked in, having recently announced general availability of Datameer 5.0. So far as I understood, Datameer is still clearly in the investigative analytics business, in that:
- Datameer does business intelligence, but not at human real-time speeds. Datameer query durations are sometimes sub-minute, but surely not sub-second.
- Datameer also does lightweight predictive analytics/machine learning — k-means clustering, decision trees, and so on.
Key aspects include:
- Datameer runs straight against Hadoop.
- Like many other analytic offerings, Datameer is meant to be “self-service”, for line-of-business business analysts, and includes some “data preparation”. Datameer also has had some data profiling since Datameer 4.0.
- The main way of interacting with Datameer seems to be visual analytic programming. However, I Datameer has evolved somewhat away from its original spreadsheet metaphor.
- Datameer’s primitives resemble those you’d find in SQL (e.g. JOINs, GROUPBYs). More precisely, that would be SQL with a sessionization extension; e.g., there’s a function called GROUPBYGAP.
- Datameer lets you write derived data back into Hadoop.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, Datameer, Hadoop, Log analysis, Market share and customer counts, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Web analytics||5 Comments|
As planned, I’m getting more active in predictive modeling. Anyhow …
1. I still believe most of what I said in a July, 2013 predictive modeling catch-all post. However, I haven’t heard as much subsequently about Ayasdi as I had expected to.
2. The most controversial part of that post was probably the claim:
I think the predictive modeling state of the art has become:
- Cluster in some way.
- Model separately on each cluster.
- It is always possible to instead go with a single model formally.
- A lot of people think accuracy, ease-of-use, or both are better served by a true single-model approach.
- Conversely, if you have a single model that’s pretty good, it’s natural to look at the subset of the data for which it works poorly and examine that first. Voila! You’ve just done a kind of clustering.
3. Nutonian is now a client. I just had my first meeting with them this week. To a first approximation, they’re somewhat like KXEN (sophisticated math, non-linear models, ease of modeling, quasi-automagic feature selection), but with differences that start: Read more
|Categories: Ayasdi, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, Log analysis, Nutonian, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Revolution Analytics, Scientific research, Web analytics||5 Comments|
The genesis of this post is that:
- Hortonworks is trying to revitalize the Apache Storm project, after Storm lost momentum; indeed, Hortonworks is referring to Storm as a component of Hadoop.
- Cloudera is talking up what I would call its human real-time strategy, which includes but is not limited to Flume, Kafka, and Spark Streaming. Cloudera also sees a few use cases for Storm.
- This all fits with my view that the Current Hot Subject is human real-time data freshness — for analytics, of course, since we’ve always had low latencies in short-request processing.
- This also all fits with the importance I place on log analysis.
- Cloudera reached out to talk to me about all this.
Of course, we should hardly assume that what the Hadoop distro vendors favor will be the be-all and end-all of streaming. But they are likely to at least be influential players in the area.
In the parts of the problem that Cloudera emphasizes, the main tasks that need to be addressed are: Read more
|Categories: Cloudera, Complex event processing (CEP), Data warehousing, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Hadoop, Health care, Hortonworks, Log analysis, Specific users, Splunk, Web analytics||4 Comments|
1. I wish I had some good, practical ideas about how to make a political difference around privacy and surveillance. Nothing else we discuss here is remotely as important. I presumably can contribute an opinion piece to, more or less, the technology publication(s) of my choice; that can have a small bit of impact. But I’d love to do better than that. Ideas, anybody?
2. A few thoughts on cloud, colocation, etc.:
- The economies of scale of colocation-or-cloud over operating your own data center are compelling. Most of the reasons you outsource hardware manufacture to Asia also apply to outsourcing data center operation within the United States. (The one exception I can think of is supply chain.)
- The arguments for cloud specifically over colocation are less persuasive. Colo providers can even match cloud deployments in rapid provisioning and elastic pricing, if they so choose.
- Surely not coincidentally, I am told that Rackspace is deemphasizing cloud, reemphasizing colocation, and making a big deal out of Open Compute. In connection with that, Rackspace has pulled back from its leadership role in OpenStack.
- I’m hearing much more mention of Amazon Redshift than I used to. It seems to have a lot of traction as a simple and low-cost option.
- I’m hearing less about Elastic MapReduce than I used to, although I imagine usage is still large and growing.
- In general, I get the impression that progress is being made in overcoming the inherent difficulties in cloud (and even colo) parallel analytic processing. But it all still seems pretty vague, except for the specific claims being made for traction of Redshift, EMR, and so on.
- Teradata recently told me that in colocation pricing, it is common for floor space to be everything, with power not separately metered. But I don’t think that trend is a big deal, as it is not necessarily permanent.
- Cloud hype is of course still with us.
- Other than the above, I stand by my previous thoughts on appliances, clusters and clouds.
3. As for the analytic DBMS industry: Read more
We all tend to assume that data is a great and glorious asset. How solid is this assumption?
- Yes, data is one of the most proprietary assets an enterprise can have. Any of the Goldman Sachs big three* — people, capital, and reputation — are easier to lose or imitate than data.
- In many cases, however, data’s value diminishes quickly.
- Determining the value derived from owning, analyzing and using data is often tricky — but not always. Examples where data’s value is pretty clear start with:
- Industries which long have had large data-gathering research budgets, in areas such as clinical trials or seismology.
- Industries that can calculate the return on mass marketing programs, such as internet advertising or its snail-mail predecessors.
*”Our assets are our people, capital and reputation. If any of these is ever diminished, the last is the most difficult to restore.” I love that motto, even if Goldman Sachs itself eventually stopped living up to it. If nothing else, my own business depends primarily on my reputation and information.
This all raises the idea – if you think data is so valuable, maybe you should get more of it. Areas in which enterprises have made significant and/or successful investments in data acquisition include: Read more
|Categories: Data mart outsourcing, eBay, Health care, Investment research and trading, Log analysis, Scientific research, Text, Web analytics||5 Comments|
Everybody is confused about privacy and surveillance. So I’m renewing my efforts to consciousness-raise within the tech community. For if we don’t figure out and explain the issues clearly enough, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades our lawmakers will get it right without us.
How bad is the confusion? Well, even Edward Snowden is getting it wrong. A Wired interview with Snowden says:
“If somebody’s really watching me, they’ve got a team of guys whose job is just to hack me,” he says. “I don’t think they’ve geolocated me, but they almost certainly monitor who I’m talking to online. Even if they don’t know what you’re saying, because it’s encrypted, they can still get a lot from who you’re talking to and when you’re talking to them.”
That is surely correct. But the same article also says:
“We have the means and we have the technology to end mass surveillance without any legislative action at all, without any policy changes.” The answer, he says, is robust encryption. “By basically adopting changes like making encryption a universal standard—where all communications are encrypted by default—we can end mass surveillance not just in the United States but around the world.”
That is false, for a myriad of reasons, and indeed is contradicted by the first excerpt I cited.
What privacy/surveillance commentators evidently keep forgetting is:
- There are many kinds of privacy-destroying information. I think people frequently overlook just how many kinds there are.
- Many kinds of organization capture that information, can share it with each other, and gain benefits from eroding or destroying privacy. Similarly, I think people overlook just how pervasive the incentive is to snoop.
- Privacy is invaded through a variety of analytic techniques applied to that information.
So closing down a few vectors of privacy attack doesn’t solve the underlying problem at all.
Worst of all, commentators forget that the correct metric for danger is not just harmful information use, but chilling effects on the exercise of ordinary liberties. But in the interest of space, I won’t reiterate that argument in this post.
Perhaps I can refresh your memory why each of those bulleted claims is correct. Major categories of privacy-destroying information (raw or derived) include:
- The actual content of your communications – phone calls, email, social media posts and more.
- The metadata of your communications — who you communicate with, when, how long, etc.
- What you read, watch, surf to or otherwise pay attention to.
- Your purchases, sales and other transactions.
- Video images, via stationary cameras, license plate readers in police cars, drones or just ordinary consumer photography.
- Monitoring via the devices you carry, such as phones or medical monitors.
- Your health and physical state, via those devices, but also inferred from, for example, your transactions or search engine entries.
- Your state of mind, which can be inferred to various extents from almost any of the other information areas.
- Your location and movements, ditto. Insurance companies also want to put monitors in cars to track your driving behavior in detail.
|Categories: Health care, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Surveillance and privacy, Telecommunications||2 Comments|