Bright Idea: Gathering intelligence

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

Suppose you could totally change the paradigm of collecting information from an airplane in flight. Suppose you could accumulate live, real-time data from the thousands of sensors installed throughout the aircraft, and combine that data into a state-of-the-plane model. Suppose that data could be combined with input from Doppler radar, satellite weather feeds, voice transmission and data from nearby aircraft. Then imagine all that data merged with the data from the plane’s flight recorders ... and every bit of that data bouillabaisse available in a usable model and in real time.

Now imagine what you and every other player in the aviation business—pilots, ground maintenance, flight controllers—could do with that information: making in-air flights smoother and more fuel-efficient, spotting mechanical issues even before planes land, providing fleet information instantly, and so much more. The possibilities for multiple industries are broad and deep.

Fantasy? No. It’s fact, if the people behind four-year-old SpaceCurve (spacecurve.com), a privately held “big data” analysis firm, have anything to do about it. “As people realize it’s now possible to work with streaming real-time data,” says SpaceCurve CEO John Slitz, “if I can do it hundreds of times faster than I could do it before, even if I don’t know why I want to do that, I want it! I will figure out a way to use that additional speed. That’s what constitutes a game changer.”

Computers needed to run SpaceCurve technology are off-the-shelf PCs with some modifications. An entry-level system might require five PCs; a big system analyzing multiple terabytes or petabytes of data instantly could take hundreds, if not thousands, of decks. Slitz is reluctant to provide names of specific clients, but he says SpaceCurve has had exploratory conversations with Ford, Boeing and GM’s OnStar.

The Seattle startup, currently staffed by 17, plans to double in size by year’s end. Initial funding has been through San Francisco-based Triage Ventures and existing investors Reed Elsevier Ventures of London and San Francisco and Seattle-based Divergent Ventures.

“Our biggest challenge has been to get people to understand that we’re moving on all three axes [velocity, variety and volume] at the same time,” Slitz notes. “We’re not simply dealing with volume. Doing all three is what gets you a unique result. That’s where we’ve been putting our efforts to differentiate ourselves, and it’s starting to pay off.”

Related Content

Program launches in five cities, including Seattle

Program launches in five cities, including Seattle

Nationwide effort seeks to promote diversity and overhaul hiring practices

Nationwide effort seeks to promote diversity and overhaul hiring practices

Susan Gates, left, and Kate Isler

Longtime friends Kate Isler and Susan Gates encourage consumers to shop with purpose

Microsoft is following in the footsteps of Twitter and Facebook

Microsoft is following in the footsteps of Twitter and Facebook