From Jewelry to Live Sports, Seattle Tech Companies Are Putting Data to Work

May 28, 2020
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4.8 million GIFs. 188 million emails. 700,000 hours of Netflix watched. 3.8 million Google searches. 400,000 app downloads. 

It would take several lifetimes to consume all that content, yet those numbers represent a mere fraction of the data that moved around the internet within a single minute in 2019.

This global data trove is growing at an exponential rate. In 2017, data intelligence company NodeGraph put the amount of data on the internet at about 2.7 zettabytes. (A zettabyte is one trillion gigabytes.) By 2025, the International Data Corporation estimates that the total amount of digital data will grow to 175 zettabytes.

What does 175 zettabytes look like? According to NodeGraph, if you were to download it all onto DVDs your stack of discs would be tall enough to circle the Earth 222 times. Downloading all that data at current internet speeds would take 1.8 billion years.

The depth and complexity of humanity’s digital data opens tremendous opportunities for any business capable of finding and making sense of that information in a valuable way. Here’s a look at how four local companies are finding novel uses for new datasets and using digitized information to improve their products and services. 

 

Next-Generation Data Overlays for Live Sports

Sports fans love statistics — batting averages, running yards, strikeouts, transfer values. The art of broadcasting data onto screens is a technology almost as old as cable TV itself. In recent years, the advent of computer vision technology has added a potential new element of immediacy to the sport-viewing experience.

With a tech team based in Bellevue and live sports channels like Eurosport, Setanta Sports and MotorTrend under its umbrella, Discovery Digital is positioned to capitalize on these new methods of extracting and leveraging sports data. The company is working on on-screen technology that can identify the equipment favored by professional cyclists and golfers, recognize off-side plays in soccer and customize highlight reels to viewer preferences.

Data overlay technology has a number of potential applications, especially in the world of sports betting. In the future, digital overlays could well present viewers with the option to place wagers on specific events within a game — asking, for example, if a fan wants to bet on whether they think their favorite golfer might hit a birdie on the next hole.

 

Bejeweled E-Commerce

As jewelry and diamond retailers have moved onto e-commerce platforms like Seattle-based Blue Nile, appraisals have presented a unique challenge for software engineers. Appraisals offer an approximate retail value for a piece of jewelry or precious stone, and they’re used by insurance providers to calculate the coverage rate for a given item. To complement the expertise of its on-staff gemologists, the company leans on data analytics technology to process data on the cut, clarity and color of a piece, as well as carat weight for diamonds or dimensions down to the millimeter. Even the craftsmanship exhibited in an item must be considered in an appraisal.

This same technology is used in a tool Blue Nile customers use to build their own rings, earrings and diamond jewelry from scratch. The software comes complete with sliding scales to determine the desired carat, color, clarity, cut and price, as well as options for shapes and styles. 

 

Win The Ad Auction

Behind many banner ads, a lightning-fast auction takes place as advertisers and publishers buy and sell ad space in real time. In this competition for real estate, companies like Redmond-based MediaAlpha facilitate transactions between advertisers and publishers of performance media — a type of marketing where buyers only pay when ads convert — through exchange platforms. MediaAlpha says it supports more than 50 million ad transactions per year, representing over $400 million in spending across industries like insurance, travel and personal finance.

To help publishers navigate these exchanges, platform providers must offer relevant, digestible data that can inform the distribution of marketing spending. The MediaAlpha for Publishers analytics dashboards for vertical search media — found on sites like Kayak, Credit Karma and Bankrate — collect granular data on clicks, calls and leads produced by individual ads. Advertisers use this data to analyze the bidding landscape, adjust spending, set price points and identify inefficiencies and opportunities. 

 

Renewals, Renewals, Renewals

One of the most basic ways companies use data is to gather and analyze information on how customers use their products, which in turn informs how new features are prioritized. The software built by Seattle-based Skilljar helps software businesses create customer training and onboarding experiences, in the hopes that teaching users how best to leverage their software will encourage adoption and lead to higher rates of renewal.

Skilljar’s software tracks data points like the number of registrations and completions of a training course, along with general audience numbers, percentage of active users per account, and utilization of materials like eBooks, videos and toolkits. Companies can then measure the impact they have on a customer’s business and optimize onboarding programs based on what’s working.  

 

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