Jul 13, 2020

Palantir: the rise of the data and analytics unicorn

Data
Big Data
Analytics
government
William Smith
2 min
Palantir Technologies, the Silicon Valley data unicorn, has risen steadily since its 2004 foundation
Palantir Technologies, the Silicon Valley data unicorn, has risen steadily since its 2004 foundation...

Palantir Technologies, the Silicon Valley data unicorn, has risen steadily since its 2004 foundation.

With its name inspired by the seeing stones from Lord of the Rings, the company projects a certain aura, describing its mission as being the augmentation rather than the replacement of human intelligence

Palantir’s primary offerings are its Gotham and Foundry platforms, which are able to demonstrate the linkages between and provenance of data points, as well as track changes over time via the concept of versioning. Describing what it does as ‘data-logic’, the digital transformation of data it provides has applications in fields as diverse as law enforcement, insurance, manufacturing and defence. Customers include the likes of Airbus, BP and the US Army.

The company has, to date, raised $2.6bn across 26 funding rounds, firmly establishing it as a tech unicorn. Recently, alongside its Japanese subsidiary, it joined with Fujitsu on a technology partnership. Said Koichi Narasaki, CEO of the company: “Our role of promoting digital transformation through Palantir software platforms has become even greater through the global COVID-19 pandemic, and it is with pleasure that we welcome Fujitsu as our Flagship Technology Partner in this critical time. Palantir Japan aims to promote our cutting-edge technology by cooperating with partners like Fujitsu to accelerate digital transformation for the most important institutions and in Japanese society as a whole.”

Perhaps curiously for a data company, and considering the company it keeps, Palantir also claims to be dedicated to privacy and civil liberties. That’s certainly an interest of Chairman and co-founder Peter Thiel, who made his fortune as a co-founder of PayPal. One of libertarian Thiel’s initiatives involves offering young people $100,000 to drop out of university.

Recently, the private firm signalled its intentions to go public with an IPO, though further details were not forthcoming. 

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Jun 16, 2021

SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data

British Army
SAS
3 min
Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM, explains the important role that SAS is playing in the British Army’s digital transformation

SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation. 

“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.

In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”

Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.

Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”

SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”

With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.

“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”

Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.

“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”

 

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