A startup called BlueTalon came out of stealth mode Friday with a new technology that lets people collaborate on data stored in databases much like they might collaborate on documents using a service like Box or Google Apps. The company has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from early-stage venture capital firm Data Collective.
BlueTalon’s technology is called the Virtual Database, essentially a cloud middleman that brokers access to data sets between their owners and the people with whom they want to share them. Data contributors connect their databases to BlueTalon’s service and set policies about who can see what data. When collaborators run queries, the Virtual Database modifies them so they only include the data the individual user is allowed to access, and they can connect their analytic software to the database without knowing the type of database or where it’s located.
“We disaggregate where you get the information from where the information physically resides,” BlueTalon CEO Eric Tilenius explained. He acknowledged it will probably never be as simple an experience as using Box or Dropbox, but noted that “we’re trying to get an order of magnitude [improvement] in the user experience in the same way that they did.”
“The ultimate problem that someone is trying to solve is data contributors really just want to offload the burden of servicing the users,” company Founder and President Pratik Verma said. It’s just like putting data into and viewing a cloud database, he added, “but [with] none of the headaches of copying and pasting the data there.”
The service can connect to any variety of data stores — NoSQL, relational, Hadoop or whatever — as long the data being shared is organized in a queryable format, Verma said.
BlueTalon’s early customers include UnitedHealthCare and Eli Lilly, but Tilenius and Verma think there’s a broad demand for this technology across industries. One he noted specifically was education, where data is often scattered across schools and school districts with no really good way to share it with officials or researchers who might be able to make use of it or combine it with other data.
Indeed, Declara Founder and CEO Ramona Pierson will speak at our Structure Data conference next month about just how valuable data collaboration can be. Her company is working with large companies and education agencies on a social platform for intelligently connecting employees with the information that’s relevant to them.
“There’s almost no industry where they couldn’t benefit from the insights they’d get from being able to connect the dots across data sets,” Tilenius said. “I try to have a good imagination, but I’m sure there will be plenty of use cases that I’m not even imagining.”
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user Semisatch.