Last week, as I stood in front of the White House Ellipse, waiting to meet a colleague, I did what many people do while waiting: I pulled out my iPhone to look at stuff on the internet. But since I was standing directly across from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s headquarters building, I was inspired to peruse something other than my Instagram feed.
Within a minute or two of Googling, I found myself on the Bureau of Economic Analysis Interactive Data Application, building my own line graphs, comparing personal consumption expenditures vs. gross private domestic investments, all based on real-time GDP data published by the Department of Commerce. And I was doing all of this within the browser on my phone.
Ok Commerce, you have my attention. Are you a government agency, or a Silicon Valley startup?
Soon thereafter I learned that “America’s Data Agency”, as Secretary Penny Pritzker had affectionately nicknamed her organization, was at the forefront of our government’s Open Data efforts. More than a third of all federal data made available to the public comes from the Department of Commerce. Their strategic plan pledges to use data to “improve government, business, and community decisions and knowledge by transforming Department data capabilities and supporting a data-enabled economy.” The Department’s mission is to create conditions for economic growth and opportunity in our country, and its leaders believe that access to data is a critical tread on the path to a healthy U.S. economy.
Raw data sets are one thing; making the right informed decisions based on the analysis of raw data sets is another. The Department of Commerce is acutely aware of this, and therefore has made their data available via APIs, which is music to our ears here at Ephesoft. They’re encouraging innovation and development of solutions with their data.
Our Big Data analytics platform, Ephesoft Insight, specializes in extracting meaningful and actionable information from unstructured textual data. Built on open source technology and principles, our plan for the platform is to grow a community of partners, customers, and users that leverage our software to create knowledge bases specific to their fields and industries. Under the hood, we have patented machine learning algorithms to automate data classification and extraction. The algorithms that pull meaning from a hospital discharge summary document are doing the same for a legal contract, or an invoice, or a government form. But the real value of the platform is combining these extracted data sets with other data sources, and we make it very easy to connect these other sources.
And that’s why we’re excited about what the Department of Commerce is doing. With their 60,000+ data sets and published APIs, it’s like two puzzle pieces fitting together perfectly. When one of our customers need to compare their organization’s data against real-time information on U.S. imports and exports, for example, Ephesoft Insight can automatically dig through the terabytes of data and present what is relevant in an analytics dashboard. They can then use these insights to make strategic decisions and improve operations. When lots of small and large businesses start doing this, we truly become a “data-enabled economy”.
In conclusion, our message to Commerce, on behalf of our company and our users, is simply, “challenge accepted!”