The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute is launching a $10,000 prize in partnership with Silicon Valley-based company Numenta, which works on machine intelligence.
Buoyed by the success of its Internet of Things Prize, which was awarded this February, the YEI has entered into its second prize-giving partnership with external companies. With the launch of the Numenta Startup Prize, Yale students, faculty and alumni who propose to start a business taking advantage of Numenta’s machine-learning technology will have a chance to obtain financial, technological and business support.
“We are bringing the broader world to Yale,” said YEI Deputy Director Erika Smith.
Such partnerships add to the pool of ideas that Yale students and faculty already have and also represent an opportunity to create scalable innovation, Smith said.
YEI Communications Officer Brita Belli said the prize will showcase not only innovation at Yale, but also the remarkable work of Numenta CEO Donna Dubinsky ’77. Dubinsky played a key role in developing the personal digital assistant, which includes devices such as the Palm Pilot. She also sits on the Yale Corporation.
Numenta has modeled its machine-learning system on the human brain, Dubinsky said. The software takes in streaming data and learns to recognize normal sequences. This equips the system to recognize abnormalities, such as unusual server activity indicating impending computer crashes and deviations of ships off of their normal paths, she said.
“We want to enable others to build their applications on top of our technology,” said Dubinsky. “The Yale contest is an experiment for us. We believe that if you give a bunch of smart people the platform, they’re going to come up with all kinds of interesting ideas that we haven’t thought of.”
The appeal of the Internet of Things Prize, which drew 18 applications and awarded money to two winning teams, makes the group optimistic that the Numenta Prize will attract interest across the University, Belli said. Machine-learning technology has great potential in any industry that deals with a lot of data, she added, citing healthcare and the environmental sciences as two fields which would likely be especially interested.
Numenta’s software is already being used to monitor server activity, safeguard against rogue employee behavior and track shipments geospatially, Dubinsky said. The technology was able to detect failure in computer networks two hours before conventional methods in trials conducted by Amazon, Dubinsky added.
“I believe that this is the next generation of computing. We’re at the end of the road of classic computing and the problems that they can solve,” Dubinsky said.
The Numenta Startup Prize info session will be held at the YEI Thursday evening.