Summary:

Numenta, the machine learning company from Palm creator Jeff Hawkins, has narrowed its business model to focus solely on predicting anomalies in Amazon Web Services instances. It’s one of several big changes at the company in the past few years.

Numenta, the startup from Palm creator Jeff Hawkins that’s trying to commercialize a “cortical learning algorithm” that mimics the brain’s capability to detect complex patterns, has narrowed its focus to predicting anomalies in customers’ Amazon Web Services instances. It’s a pretty sharp pivot for the company, which came out of stealth mode in late 2012 talking about how it could learn patterns and predict failures in any system pumping out streams of performance data.

Here’s how I described Numenta’s broad capabilities when covering its partnership with smart-grid-management company EnerNOC last year:

“Grok … is continuously learning from every new data point that hits the system, and it’s always readjusting its models to account for any changes it sees in the patterns of data. Not only does this help it make predictions faster and more accurately, but it also helps Grok spot anomalies that could cause problems.”

Here’s how Numenta now describes the product on its web site:

“Grok leverages sophisticated algorithms to analyze connected datastreams, such as those from AWS CloudWatch. Through complex pattern analysis, Grok identifies abnormal conditions or gradual trends — situations that tools based on thresholds or simple statistics can easily miss.”

A screenshot of Grok.

A screenshot of Grok.

While Numenta previously discussed turning Grok loose on streaming data as part of an automated system that could even take action in extreme scenarios, the new Grok provides a mobile-only interface for users to check their metrics. Curiously, it’s Android-only.

Actually, Numenta has undergone a lot of changes in the past few years. The company was founded in 2005 to commercialize one neuroscience-based algorithm but shifted its focus to the cortical learning algorithm in 2009. Co-founder and former CTO Dileep George left in 2010 to launch Vicarious, the artificial intelligence startup that recently received a $40 million investment from Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Ashton Kutcher, among others. Former CEO Rami Branitzky left in August 2013 and is now a managing director at SAP Ventures. Numenta Co-founder Donna Dubinsky is currently CEO.

From May 2013 until Tuesday, Numenta had changed its name to Grok Solutions and maintained Numenta as the name of its open source corollary.

It will be interesting to see if Numenta can catch on among AWS users at a level it apparently couldn’t as a general-purpose technology. There are already myriad services out there for analyzing AWS performance — StackdriverBoundary and New Relic among the more well-known ones — and Numenta will have to provide a truly differentiated service to make a name for itself. Its algorithms might be fancier and tuned for prediction rather than just monitoring, but I suspect the folks in charge of keep cloud applications running are tiring of new tools to consider and aren’t too keen on fixing environments that aren’t broken.

For more on the technology behind Numenta, check out then-CEO Branitzky presenting as part of our Big Ideas collection at Structure Data 2013.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user Will Deganelic.

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