Summary:

Predictions are becoming more and more accurate in these data-driven days, but different fields need different techniques. This company, which seems to have got the Austrian government to bite, is promising a one-size-fits-all approach – but it’s all very mysterious for now.

Accurate predictions have been a tantalizing prize since the days of the soothsayers, but these days the business is getting more technical, from collaboration-centric financial forecasting techniques to Nate Silver’s data-driven political predictions. Of course, those two examples are pretty different, but an Austrian firm called Prediki is now trying to come up with a tool for general-purpose predictions.

It’s still all relatively stealthy – that link above won’t tell you much – but the company has nonetheless announced $650k in seed financing from the Austrian government-funded Federal Promotion Bank.

In a statement, CEO Hubertus Hofkirchner said Prediki’s patent-pending technology would be able to “unveil information about the future where traditional market research and opinion survey instruments have proven unreliable or inapplicable”, for clients ranging from companies to governments.

Hofkirchner has form in this business. He was formerly CEO of a company called Redmonitor, which dealt in financial predictions and sold out to CMC Markets , a UK-based derivatives dealer. However, Prediki’s technology has also evolved out of systems that have been used for political polling.

“In the past, the base technology upon which we’re building was mostly used for political forecasts,” Hofkirchner told me. “In recent times it’s probably twice as good as opinion polls for a fraction of the cost. But it was very hard in the past to apply the technology to anything else.”

“There has been lots of work done to apply the technology to things like sales forecasts, pharmaceutical approval forecasts, technology adoption, evaluating innovations, evaluating media campaigns and so on – lots of work has been done by various players in the last 10 years. But, while there has been success in the predictive performance of these things, nobody ever cracked the problem that it’s really hard to come up with a model for a truly generic all-purpose prediction market.”

So does Prediki’s technology work? What am I, a fortune teller? But the Austrian government seems to have some faith in it (after all, it can apparently be used for NGOs and even governments), so let’s see. The big unveiling should take place sometime in the first quarter of next year.

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