How can AIs study you while keeping all your secrets? Neura CEO explains


Updated: There’s more data being collected on you than companies know what to do with. Dubbed the “data lake”, this growing repository of information bears the promise of better business and improved customer service. But what do you get in exchange for the data shared?

Organizations across industries are increasingly turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to predict future consumer behavior, boost the user experience and stave off cyber criminals, among enhancing other critical business functions. In fact, the AI-powered predictive analytics market will reach $18.5 billion by 2021, according to a recent report. And as more Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) products emerge from companies big and small, the connected world is growing exponentially.

Neura, Inc., an IoT startup that pulls together data from users’ connected devices, raised $11 earlier this year to expand its efforts in the connected world to unlock the potential of personalized experiences. Neura is a software development platform that profiles each individual user’s past, recognizes his or her present context, and predicts future activity. As the startup looks to disrupt the IoT market by appealing to consumer privacy, Neura acts as a digital bouncer protecting and transacting data as the user sees fit.

Today the Neura-powered medAI initiative, aimed at bringing AI-powered personalization to the healthcare sector, announced 10 new participating companies that will use Neura’s personal AI service to enhance existing products. As healthcare continues to explore machine learning techniques towards administrative efficiencies and more personalized care, Neura’s stance on data protection bridges commercial and consumer objectives.

SiliconANGLE recently spoke to Gilad Meiri, CEO at Neura, about the company’s mission of creating a data-rich ecosystem of user-centric products.

An agile algorithm

Q: Tell us about Neura’s technology.

Meiri: What we try to understand is behavior … if you’re walking, driving, sleeping … and allow you to transact that information with your environment so you can respond to these moments (events) in life. We distill data in a practical way — where are you and who are you with? — that will allow users to make an accurate decision. The algorithmic element is core. It all falls into an agile algorithm, and the user decides to share information. Here’s the value I’m delivering — you decide.

Q: IoT monetization is still an exploratory phase – does Neura support ads?

Meiri: We don’t work with ads — we’ll never work with ads. I’ll take us down before we go that route. We enhance the product. It understands you better and responds to you instead of needing you to manually set it up.

Users pay us. That’s the real model in IoT. Look at many companies in IoT — they don’t do data; they do value. I think it’s the right thing to do and correlates with the right business model.

Clean data collection

Q: How does this method promote clean data collection for the apps and services currently taking in disparate data?

Meiri: A music player, for example, wants to augment your playlist while you run. It looks to us. If you use Neura, you first go to a permission layer. That means the app presents the value, and they ask for Neura to share the fact that you’re running so they can deliver the value — if at any point you want to change it, you can.

This method definitely provides cleaner data. We do a very specific thing. We don’t know anything about the music player — we know you. We create a file on you, give you the reins, and say, “If you want to give something to someone, you can. We’ll do a much better job than the music player.”

If you use Neura, we do a better job, and the third-party app doesn’t have to collect all that disparate data. Many behemoths out there are collecting data with only the potential of doing something with it. The challenge is no longer collecting data. Many of the companies we work with have old-school mentalities. They do a really good job with consumer devices, are pretty good with mobile devices, and are lower on the rung with software. They’re doing nearly nothing with machine learning. This is outside of their core competence.

Q: How does it work?

Meiri: You’re not going to hear from us every time a transaction happens. Think of a PayPal app. You can be a PayPal user without an app to transact money. PayPal doesn’t disclose credentials — just completes the transaction. It allows you to send money and can show what type of transaction you did.

As much as I’m in love with the idea of protecting users and augmenting the data economy, I call myself a radical pragmatist, because, at the end of the day, there’s a growing subset of users that the Targets and Samsungs are exposed more and more. Look at companies like Mozilla. They’re failing not because they don’t have a good solution — just not the best solution. We must focus all our efforts to deliver value proposition.

Data distilled

Q: What roles do ethics and morality play in Neura’s data distillation process?

Meiri: I’m not a privacy geek — I’m a transparency geek. The market is telling us that ethics is the cream on top of the cake. When an enterprise client wants us to spy, we lose the deal. I had an employee tell me the other day, “You don’t have the authority to tell us to do that,” and I was very proud to see they adopted this mentality.

You can’t build a company culture on being “just.” You must deliver value and be just. The current market de facto isn’t rewarding businesses for being just, but I think that will change.

Q: How is Neura empowering data for better human/machine interactions?

Meiri: One of the characteristics in today’s IoT is, companies are building machines but not experiences. … Neura strengthens the experience so a fitness tracker can now say, “When you’re sleep deprived, jet lagged or sleepy trying to drive, this is what happens.”

I wouldn’t say we’re replacing communication between humans and machines, but IoT today needs scripting. My grandmother isn’t a Silicon Valley engineer — she’s not going to script it. But she will happily consume the result — the oven can tell her she left it on when she left the house.

About Gilad Meiri, CEO of Neura, Inc.

Gilad MeiriMeiri is the CEO of Neura, Inc. He was the cofounder and CEO of Spicebox, LLC, which created connected devices. Prior to that he worked in management consulting in TASC Strategic Consulting, Israel and spent nearly five years in the Israeli Defense Forces as an infantry officer. Gilad earned an MBA from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan where he cofounded the Social Venture Fund and has a dual bachelor’s degree in economics and education from Tel-Aviv University.

Feature image via: I Spy via photopin (license)