Is the road to machine learning paved with API providers?

Can companies use services that democratize machine learning while staying abreast of the law?

When it comes to machine learning, the future is already here, but it’s not yet evenly distributed. Taking advantage of breakthroughs in the field can require a lot of work, which is tough for small companies and those without a whole team to build custom applications and algorithms.

According to Okta CEO Todd McKinnon, there’s a lot of hype around the potential of machine learning, but companies aren’t actually taking advantage of it. It's similar to how people discussed big data a few years ago.

“We think about this a lot, and the most interesting thing about machine learning that I’ve noticed over the last year is that it’s kind of like what big data was three years ago,” he said. "Everyone talks about it, but nobody really has it."

Mixpanel CEO Suhail Doshi sees that as a solvable problem. In his view, tech companies need to create and sell intelligent services that let other businesses use machine learning to perform key tasks.

In his view, a very small number of companies will have the people necessary to develop new machine-learning techniques, and only slightly more will have the team  to help them get insights out of their data. 

“Most companies don’t have the data scientists that are going to find signal from noise, so really what they have is data, at the end of the day,” Doshi said during a panel discussion in San Francisco on Thursday. "People are going to have to find a way to give up that data and say, ‘Here’s all my data, tell me something interesting about this.’"

Doshi's predictions line up with others from around the tech industry. Microsoft’s data chief, Joseph Sirosh, has said he expects to see a marketplace of intelligent algorithms and applications that companies can buy. 

Microsoft already offers that through its Cortana Analytics Suite and Project Oxford tools, while IBM offers its Watson artificial intelligence APIs as cloud services. Algorithmia is a Seattle-based startup also creating such a marketplace. 

But it’s not all fun and games, especially for an enterprise, according to Cumulus Networks CEO JR Rivers. In his view, laws governing companies, especially large ones, will prevent them from sharing data with providers of those services. 

“Data privacy gets in the way of data transfer from any one company to another,” Rivers said. "So there’s no way any one company can give Google stuff with faces in it and let Google come back with answers — a real company, a big company. It’s not going to happen."

Then there’s the matter of what happens to applications powered by a particular service when its provider goes out of business. Right now, developers are rushing to reconfigure applications that rely on Parse, a set of services that Facebook sold for a couple of years, then announced it would be shutting down in 2017

Parse’s exit is probably the best-case scenario for developers. They have a long time to update their apps, and Facebook has decided to open-source Parse Server software, so developers can run their own Parse instance if they need to.

Companies won't always be so lucky, though. It’s something to contemplate as we head toward this new API marketplace future.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?