Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Google Invests in Startup that Predicts the Future

Source: http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2010-05/google-invests-startup-predicts-future

You might think Google knows all there is to know, but apparently Google doesn't think so. The company is now seeking to know the unknowable, having just sunk an undisclosed amount of capital into Cambridge, Mass.-based Recorded Future, a startup that analyzes the "past, present and the predicted future," according to Google's investment arm, Google Ventures.

Recorded Future appears to be a data analytics company that tries to calculate what the future might hold by applying search-engine like capabilities to highly specific data sets in order to deduce what's probable to happen down the road. By scanning the Web for the frequency and nature of references to a certain person or occurrence, Recorded Future computes what it calls a "momentum value" for each entity in its database. From there, it tries to project future happenings, be they stock market swings or terrorist attacks.

A blog post on Recorded Future's Web site explains:

The momentum value indicates how interesting a certain event or entity is at a particular time, and is continuously updated. In computing the momentum value, we take into account the volume of news around an entity or event, as well as what sources it is mentioned in, what other events and entities it is mentioned together with, and several other factors.

The post continues:

The momentum measure is used to present the most relevant query results in our web user interface, but it can also be analyzed using statistical methods to predict possible future changes in momentum, which in turn can be valuable e.g. for trading decisions.

It sounds more reliable than a crystal ball, and honestly it sounds like a good fit for Google. Recorded Future's analytics tools could prove valuable to the search giant, especially if they prove useful at crunching large volumes of data into useful, actionable information -- a task that is Google's bread and butter. We'll try to guard our optimism and not dwell on the fact that such prediction models sounds vaguely similar to some of the risk management models employed by once-mighty investment firms.

Google plans to invest $100 million in startups through Google Ventures this year alone, so regardless of whether Recorded Ventures pans out, we predict Google will be just fine.

[ComputerWorld]

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