Atanu Basu has seen the future, and initially he didn’t know what to call it. “We used to call it predictive decision management, and then we realized prescriptive analytics was a better phrase,” he said. Basu is CEO of Ayata, a 10-year-old company that makes software designed to analyze the present in order to predict the future and — here’s its claim to fame — prescribe how to benefit from what’s ahead. Think of it as the next evolution of analytics. Rather than describe the future and leave it up to us humans to decide what to do, prescriptive analytics just tells us. “It’s like a cooking recipe: Add oil, wait for five minutes, let the color turn brown; when the color turns brown, now you sprinkle the spice,” he said. Voila! Bon appetit!
Well, not quite. The do-this-then-that format of the prescription (action pathway in Ayata parlance) might sound simple, but like a jet plane on autopilot, the mechanics behind it are not. To predict the future, the software must analyze the present and, as CIOs know, the present world never stops generating data, 80% of which does not fit easily into traditional databases. Images, videos, audio, texts — a digital gusher of data is being pumped out by technologies that were nonexistent not so long ago. Indeed, 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years, as the data mavens are fond of quoting. “Drones! Each drone captures video that would take a human being 80 years to analyze. I mean, I may not live 80 years,” Basu said.