Get ready to hear a lot more about streaming analytics. The term describes the real-time analysis of data from sensors and monitors and RFID chips and all the other paraphernalia of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Streaming analytics is hot. The market is dominated by major players, including IBM and German giants SAP and Software AG. But the technology is still in its infancy, and smaller players are making their mark with innovative ways of gathering and analysing data.
Australian startup eagle.io has developed a cloud-based platform for streaming analytics. It differs from the major players in providing a full streaming analytics capability, rather than just a platform for developers to build on.
“As the retina is to humans, so eagle.io is to business,” says chief executive officer Ben Starr. “We analyse and visualise streaming data to allow big businesses to understand their environment in real time.
“Eagle.io is a cloud based streaming analytics platform for large businesses with dispersed geographic operations,” he explains. “Our system ingests time series telemetry data, processes that data almost in real time, then presents the results in time series graphs and dashboards, generating SMS and email alerts when pre-defined critical situations occur.
“Users can use the notifications and the visual representations of the data to understand their real time business environment, and generate real time alerts to allow them to make faster and better decisions.”
Analyst group Forrester calls these real-time glimpses “perishable insights” which it describes as “urgent business risks and opportunities that firms can only detect and act on at a moment’s notice.
Streaming analytics is about knowing and acting on what’s happening in your business at this very moment. You must act on them fast within a narrow window of opportunity before they quickly lose their value.
“The high velocity, white-water flow of data from innumerable real-time data sources such as market data, IoT, mobile, sensors, clickstream, and even transactions remain largely unnavigated by most firms. The opportunity to leverage streaming analytics has never been greater.”
That is the opportunity eagle.io is exploiting. The company was founded in 2012, but released product only in 2015. Founders Jarrah Watson and Nicholas Hitchins still work in the business, and Ben Starr came on board last year to manage and grow the operation.
Mr Starr previously ran successful Australian startups in the environmental field, where he first came across a beta version of eagle.io to address a data capture and analysis challenge he was faced with.
“We were looking at paying $30,000 or more to build a system to analyse real time data. We did it in the cloud with eagle.io after ten minutes on the phone,” he says. He liked it so much he joined the company, as an investor and as CEO. He is excited about the future, but it comes with many challenges.
“The technology is very new, so there’s the old issue of educating the market,” he says. “We need our partners and users to catch up with the technology and what it can do.
“Eagle.io is software that can be applied to the benefit of almost every business. For it to be adopted by everyone, we need hardware like sensors and loggers, and communications like 3G and 4G, satellite, and LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) to get cheaper and easier to set up to markedly increase the market for our type of service to explode.
“Basically, we need to educate end users on the power of streaming analytics. Data analytics is itself relatively new, and streaming data analytics is one of the less utilised classes. But it is the fastest growing.
“Another challenge is to re-invent the value chain for the post IoT world,” he believes. “We are just one step in the value chain of streaming analytics which includes hardware manufacturers, hardware integrators.
“In the old school value chain we are an OEM component of a service offered by hardware integrators, and hardware integrators own the client relationship. The need to market through hardware integrators adds a layer to our sales and marketing efforts. We need to increase our sophistication and ability to market to end users, and the engage with hardware installers as the OEM part to our solution.”
Like most Australian tech sector entrepreneurs, Mr Starr has strong views on what the Government could do better to assist SME growing businesses.
“A really important issue is how tax is handled when issuing stock to staff. Issuing stock in lieu of cash for partners joining a firm results in a PAYG liability and superannuation costs to either the company or the staff member. This effectively stifles innovation by limiting a start-up’s ability to bring early staff on with in-kind contributions.
“The Government should also allow losses from startups to be applied against personal income, as is the case with negative gearing on housing investments. This would allow start-ups to offset losses during the early phase while working part time in a real job.
“A lot more could also be done to promote crowd funding of start-ups. There needs to be a change to the corporation law to allow retail investors to take equity stakes in companies using crowd funding platforms, or change the definition of sophisticated investor to make it more accessible.
“It seems almost obscene that someone can be allowed to spend $20,000 on a holiday or a sport bike – both of which are effectively money down the drain – but that the same person can’t invest in a start-up that may create ongoing benefits to the community and at least has the chance of a positive return.”
Mr Starr believes that the biggest infrastructure improvement, and the one that would make the most positive difference to eagle.io’s business, would be ubiquitous access to the Internet across Australia.
“We need to fast track approvals for LoRaWAN and other low speed, long distance radio communication protocols. And Government agencies should be early adopters of streaming data analytics – it suits many public sector applications.”
He is an admirer of Atlassian. “They are a successful Australian software firm that has a focus on product and outcomes that sell themselves. They have been unconventional, but very successful, with their culture and HR. They have a commitment to reinvest for growth – there was a great line in their IPO prospectus that said: ‘we don’t nor do we intend in the future to issue dividends.’
“I also liked Apple when Steve Jobs was at the helm. He had a concentrated vision of future, executed by a well-oiled machine to deliver technology that changed the world. And look at Jack Welch at GE, who has a policy where the bottom 10 percent of performers are asked to leave each year. I like his tough but fair approach that keeps the GE community lean and effective.”
Mr Starr’s biggest job now is to raise $1 million in capital over the next 12 months to fund core feature developments, which he describes as “server side processing, non-destructive data editing, rework dashboard layout, map overlays and interface,” and become the brand leader in Australia and the US in streaming analytics.
“We want to build a scalable sales force where every dollar in results in 10 dollars out.”
Potential investors, he believes, will be found among eagle.io’s business partners. One of his first jobs as CEO has been to visit the company’s clients, who are mainly in the US, to talk to them about shared opportunities.
Eagle.io’s approach is different to most other streaming analytics vendors, he says, because of the way it builds interfaces to specific devices, which then allows it to do all its processing in the cloud (it uses Amazon Web Services in Australia and internationally).
Longer term, he says the biggest challenge is simply predicting the future. “We need to start working on building features now to support hardware that hasn’t yet been manufactured, in businesses that aren’t yet collecting or analysing data, for purposes they haven’t yet considered, for benefits that haven’t yet been quantified.”
Nothing too difficult, then.