When it comes to creatively optimizing an algorithm, it helps to a have a flesh-and-blood human being involved.
That's the gist of Skytree's announcement Tuesday of Second Opinion, a service that connects Skytree's on-staff data scientists and analytics professionals with its customers. "With Second Opinion, we're striving to work with [our customers] to find the best possible outcomes for their given situations," Alexander Gray, co-founder and CTO of Skytree, said in a statement. "Whether they are exploring new algorithms or would like to boost the quality of existing models, we are here to help."
There's no doubt help is needed, given all the activity around big data projects.
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On Monday, Gartner released details of a survey that found 64% of organizations are funding or plan to fund big data projects this year. Conducted in June, the survey revealed that of those organizations, 30% have already invested in big data technology, 19% plan to invest within the next year, and an additional 15% plan to invest within two years. The survey collected responses from 720 Gartner Research Circle members worldwide.
Skytree currently claims around 30 paying customers for its Skytree Server, a machine-learning analytics software platform introduced last February. Second Opinion is available to those customers and as a standalone service.
Los Angeles-based ShoeDazzle, an online site for personalized styling and retail, has been a Skytree customer since May. "We're currently working with SkyTree to model and predict customer engagement and behavior patterns," Sean Odlum, director of marketing and strategy, told InformationWeek in an email.
Odlum said the company has already used Second Opinion to directly interact with Skytree's data scientists. "We've found their data science team to be first-rate," he wrote.
No Domain Expertise Needed
Opinions vary about the wisdom of outsourcing data science expertise. One often-heard concern is that outside data analysts without domain expertise in a specific industry or a specific company will overlook important patterns and connections.
Skytree president and CEO Martin Hack dismissed that notion in a phone interview with InformationWeek earlier this month. "The proof in the pudding," he said. "We've had great success with algorithms in [domains] we didn't have experience in. That's the inherent power of machine-learning systems like Skytree's."
Nevertheless, Hack said, an ongoing problem is businesses with databases that have plenty of rows and columns containing the wrong data, or not enough of the right data.
Interestingly, while Skytree is hoping to capitalize on providing human expertise with its Second Opinion service, it is also working on improving dashboards in order to open up the audience for data analytics. Skytree Advisor, for example, is a machine-learning interface that can process up to 100,000 rows. Now in beta and free to download, the client software for Windows, Mac and Linux (which will offered as a browser interface by the end of the year) finds anomalies and outliers, performs predictions and can create reports.
Skytree's Second Opinion is now available in limited beta. The service's pricing will be based on a customer's requirements and the complexity of their data, a Skytree spokesperson said.
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