Problem solving at the speed of light

David Goldsworth has a track record of tackling some of digital technology’s toughest problems. A pioneer of the digital broadcasting industry, he developed the key ‘framestore’ technology that enabled real-time satellite TV transmission across the globe.

He was also a key player in Mentor Graphics, arguably the company that invented electronic design automation.

His latest technology venture is also seeking to make a leap in the application of technology to intractable business problems. SecurityPost has developed SPAI, an artificial intelligence data analysis tool focusing on risk, security fraud and data analysis issues where the dataset is too large and/or complex for current technologies to deal with or where rules-based queries are too limiting or impractical.

Goldsworth argues that conventional approaches have tried to address large, complex data analysis by parallelising the task and throwing more computer power at the analysis. They have also tried a whole series of approaches – fuzzy logic, neural nets, genetic algorithms and Bayesian networks, among others.

“They [mostly] try to reduce the problem to a manageable size by simplifying it,” Goldsworth argues. “Instead, we try to match the analysis to the complexity of the problem.”

Although the details of the SPIA are still being kept under wraps, he outlines how it searches all dimensions of a problem concurrently and builds continuously on the rules derived in real time throughout the analysis. “Every new data point updates all previous ones, [so the analysis is] learning as it goes,” he explains.

The result is a technology capable of tackling seemingly impossible computing problems in areas such as drug discovery, fraud and risk analysis. Goldsworth gives the example of iris scanning for identity matching. Present iris databases at airports and elsewhere can only deal with a couple of hundred thousand scans when searching for a match – unless the passenger is willing to wait. “Throwing more hardware at it may eventually get it to 10 to 20 million scans,” he says, but that looks limiting when the European Union’s population now stands at 490 million. The SPIA will be able to match over 300 million iris scans, he claims.

Other applications already in action include work for a fertiliser company, where scientists typically find one breakthrough compound every 10 years. The very first run of SPIA found three likely candidates.

The conference-wide dropping of jaws at the Effective IT 2008 conference suggested that delegates appreciated that they had witnessed the beginnings of something huge: like seeing the first live transatlantic television broadcast.

David Cliff

David Cliff is managing director of Houghton le Spring-based Gedanken, a company specialising in coaching-based support and personal development. Cliff is an experienced trainer, manager and therapist,...

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