Microsoft made a data analytics acquisition. IBM expanded its IoT Watson efforts with new APIs. Apple shut down its Twitter analytics acquisition. For this week's big data roundup, let's start with the threat of evil algorithms and robot overlords.
Well, maybe it's not that drastic, but if that dystopian future is coming, we may be better prepared now, thanks in part to Tesla founder Elon Musk.
Musk, together with several other tech firms and entrepreneurs, are pooling their fortunes to launch OpenAI, a nonprofit artificial intelligence research company. The aim is to advance digital intelligence in a way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by the drive for financial return.
[Hiring top data talent isn't easy. Here's some help. Hiring Top Analytics Talent: How Leading Companies Do It.]
Musk has invested previously in organizations whose stated mission is to use AI to drive good in the world (instead of using human beings as energy cells to power the Matrix).
Earlier this year, a group of scientists, researchers, and academics, including Musk and Stephen Hawking, warned that the development of artificial intelligence could spark a new global arms race. This new organization is an effort to balance that possible threat.
"Because of AI's surprising history, it's hard to predict when human-level AI might come within reach," according to a blog post penned by the organization. "When it does, it'll be important to have a leading research institution, which can prioritize a good outcome for all over its own self-interest."
In other news, Microsoft announced Friday it has acquired Metanautix, a startup focused on unlocking the data potential that exists in every company by creating software-defined data marts that can be queried with SQL.
Metanautix was formed by ex-Google engineer Theo Vassilakis, who created a similar project at Google, and ex-Facebook engineer Apostolos Lerios, who was in charge of analytics around photographs and videos at Facebook. The idea is to enable users to query data in this virtual data mart, regardless of whether it is in the public cloud, private cloud, or anywhere else, in order to gain business insights.
Over at IBM, executives were setting the stage for a bigger IoT (Internet of Things) effort around the company's cognitive computing platform, Watson. IBM is opening a new global headquarters effort in Munich for its Watson IoT, to be supplemented by eight customer experience centers around the world. The company is also adding several APIs in a number of categories to unlock the potential of using IoT and Watson together.
The new API services to connect IoT to Watson will cover natural language processing, machine learning, video and image analytics, and text analytics, the company said. The goal is to spur third-party development of industry-specific Watson apps.
IoT is poised to explode. Gartner has recently said that it expects 6.4 billion things to be connected to the Internet in 2016, up 30% from 2015. That's the tip of the iceberg. We took a high-level overview of the ways IoT will be changing big data forever.
While some companies were acquiring and ramping up analytics efforts this week, Apple was unplugging and shutting down an analytics acquisition from 2013. Back then, the company acquired Topsy Labs for about $200 million. Topsy's mission had been to tame the fire hose of big data issuing forth from Twitter. But just two years later, Apple is shutting it down. Topsy sent out its last tweet from its @Topsy account Dec. 15, "We've searched our last tweet."
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