Techies mull changing trends at data meet

Blockchain, big data, cybersecurity, AI and IoT spur debate at Global Data Science Conference


Ritu Jha


Attendees at the Global Data Science Conference in Santa Clara were a little bemused by the shock and consternation that Facebook had actively worked with companies that infringed on people’s privacy.

“I was surprised that people were surprised,” Ravi Vayuvegula, senior vice president at Lynx Analytics, based in Seattle, told indica at the conference, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, April 2-4.

The conference attracted techies from across the US eager to catch up with new trends – blockchain, bitcoin, big data, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things (IoT), even fake news.

Facebook has been accused of everything from carelessness to collusion after data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica collected data on Facebook users to possibly influence elections in the US and other countries. Anywhere between 87 million and 2.2 billion users may have been affected.

“I am surprised that people are angry with Facebook…. People feel they have lost control of what is happening and that we are puppets in the world of Facebook, Google, LinkedIn … That is what people are lashing out at,” Vayuvegula said. He pointed out that people have known for years of cookies – used to track people across internet domains.

He cited the European Union, which has agreed upon the General Data Protection Regulation, which defines how data is used and protected there.

“If the Europeans can do it, the question is whether the US also can,” he said.

Mahesh Kumar, founder and CEO, Tiger Analytics, based in Santa Clara, with offices in Chennai, told indica that US regulations were better than those in India but not those in Europe. He said many changes lay ahead as people figured out privacy and data security issues.

“We knew this is happening. It was just not in the media. [Now] it has become more popular,” he said, adding that as awareness dawns the legal system will begin reflecting this new understanding.

“We focus on more complex and advanced analytics to make automated decisions,” Kumar said, “We have built solutions that can run an automated marketing campaign to understand what customers are interested in buying.”

Kumar said his company deals with firms in entertainment, retail and banking, its clients including Intel, PayPal, LinkedIn, Charles Schwab and John Hancock in the US, as well as Star TV, Marico (the manufacturers of Parachute Oil) and TVS in India. The data collected is of a corporate nature, consent is first established and the data never sold to other parties, he said.

He gave the example of Star TV (India), saying that TA has built software that captures and analyzes a lot of data to gauge what content will resonate with what audience and at what time.

The conference also featured several other keynote speakers.

Kaz Sato, staff developer advocate at Google’s Cloud Platform team, talking about TensorFlow.

Kaz Sato, staff developer advocate at Google’s Cloud Platform team, talked about TensorFlow, an open source software solution for Android, iOS and embedded devices.

He told indica machine learning could benefit from TensorFlow, helping in areas as varied as image analysis, including object detection, and voice recognition.

“It may detect what you are doing with the mobile – [whether] you carrying a mobile while walking or biking or even driving a car,” Sato said.

Amit Satsangi, a data scientist at Oakwood Worldwide, talked about Market Mix Modeling, a solution to analyze cross-channel marketing campaigns, and for media mix optimization.

While these have been practiced by TV executives for decades, digital firms, including Google, have begun seriously considering it only recently, he said, adding that the main target was behavioral data.

“They are trying to understand the value of each channel they invest in, like email, TV, paid search and more,” Satsangi said. He added that Google has always offered Attribution Analysis as part of the Google Analytics service; now they are looking to providing Market Mix Modeling analysis through the Google Marketing Mix Model Partners program.

Dipti Patel-Misra, chief data and analytics officer at Vituity, talked about artificial intelligence in healthcare. According to her, while retail manufacturing has relied on it for long, the healthcare industry had a unique set of problems, including data privacy and security.

DJ Das said his big data company, Third Eye, is working with a Texas county to curb crime using software.

DJ Das founder and CEO, Third Eye, talking to attendees at the conference.

“The open data initiative of the US government is great. There are tons of data. You just need to grab it,” he said.

Texas-based Celestine Vettical, co-founder, and chairman, Cashaa, asserted that technology will challenge one-third of the revenue of traditional banks. Cashaa is a blockchain company and an emerging FinTech technology player.

Blockchain is software that consists of units of encrypted hard-to-change data about financial assets; FinTech covers more ground, including all financial services that rely on software.


Cashaa is planning to launch in India by April end, the effort officially being to bring digital banking to millions who do not have bank accounts, most of whom access the internet on their phones.


Celestine Vettical, co-founder, and chairman, Cashaa (left) talking to a vendor at the conference

“The use of mobile devices is big there. It’s a perfect [opportunity] for us to go and bring banking to the next billion,” he said.

Attendee Vinay Munjewar, engineering lead at A³ by Airbus, an R&D outpost of Airbus in San Jose, said that while it usually takes eight to 10 years to deliver a product, the effort was to get AI and blockchain to mature faster, to help improve engineering and manufacturing.

“We (Airbus) have a very big supply chain, so we have less visibility after one or two levels. But if data comes through blockchain, it will be more transparent,” he said.

The conference had the only one panel of women – and that addressed blockchain and IoT.

When the moderator asked if blockchain, AI and IoT were passing fads, Jessica Groopman, founding partner at Kaleido Insights IDG quipped that the toothpaste is out of the tube and could not be put back in.

“It’s very buzzy and [I’m] not sure today’s platforms and protocols necessarily will stick around for the long term. But this concept is not going away,” she said.

Emma Todd, CEO, MMH Blockchain Group, who otherwise waxed optimistic, cautioned, “We have to realize and recognize that not many people know how blockchain works.”

Karpagam Narayanan, founder and president, eKryp Inc, spoke about consumer skepticism about the Internet of Things.

“But people are connected through devices,” she said “Studies show enterprises use only one percent of the data they have collected while the rest can actually be used. Long story short, [IoT is] here to stay.”

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