Belfast Briefing: predicting a much healthier future

Analytics Engines working on next generation of medical analytics technology

If you woke up this morning with a persistent, niggling ache, you might like to know that a Belfast company is working on your problem. Or rather they are working on figuring out when your problem is likely to occur.

Analytics Engines is part of a pioneering team developing new technology that one day could help to forecast if you are likely to have a pain, ache or something worse.

This may all seem a little Star Trekky, but the company, which was spun out of Queen's University Belfast's Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, is currently working with Philips Healthcare and a number of other firms on the next generation of healthcare medical analytics technology.

Dr Stephen McKeown, chief executive of Analytics Engines, says the technology could not only be transformative, but potentially life-saving.


Better outcomes

He says the company is working with its partners to introduce “content and context” aware imaging techniques into the next generation of medical imaging platforms. This will enable medical professionals to gather more intelligent images and give them more control over what data to acquire, Analytics Engines believes this will ultimately deliver better clinical outcomes.

The Philips tie-up is just one example of projects that the big data and analytics specialist is working on with clients that include multinationals such as Credit Suisse and niche specialists such as geoscience consulting firm RSI.

Since it was founded in 2008, Analytics Engines has established a reputation for its powerful, scalable, click-to-deploy open-source analytics platforms. This reputation is one of the reasons why the company, which is privately owned, raised £1 million earlier this year in a funding round led by local venture capital fund Crescent Capital.

What sets it apart from some of its competitors, according to McKeown, is the fact that its technology or “modular stack” delivers an accelerated version of popular predictive algorithms that can be up to 1,000 times faster than the standard offerings. What this means is the company is able to give businesses the opportunity to run more sophisticated analytics on larger volumes of data at much faster speeds.

McKeown believes this will appeal to lots of businesses, regardless of the sector in which they operate.

“It’s estimated that organisations which use predictive analytics in the decision-making process generate more than 2½ times the return on investment of other organisations who use non-predictive analytics. There is no industry or business, large or small that is going to be left untouched by big data challenges – the global market will be worth £80 billion this year and we see this as a big opportunity not just for Analytics Engines but for the growing number of big data related companies in Northern Ireland.

Market leaders

“We have a fantastic ecosystem here, we have the £7 million big data research centre in Belfast and our universities are producing a pipeline of talent and supporting world-leading research; companies like Analytics Engines aren’t just following a trend, we’re leading the market in terms of capability and talent, and we’re bringing innovations to market which are, across the board, successful.

“We believe there is huge growth potential not just for our business but for Northern Ireland to capitalise on the opportunities that big data presents and use this to help drive the Northern Ireland economy.”

On Thursday, Analytics Engines is hosting the Big Data Week Belfast conference which McKeown hopes will showcase local talent and highlight to local businesses why they cannot afford to ignore the big data.