New CA software adds neural net to apps

Hoping to make it easier to build neural network capabilities into existing applications, Computer Associates International Inc. in Islandia, N.Y., has combined its neural networks offering with its Jasmine ii application development and business platform.

Released yesterday, Neugents ii is a combination of CA's Neugent neural network technology and Jasmine ii, the software vendor's electronic-business platform and application development tool.

Neugents are already being tested by customers such as New Scotland Yard to improve their data analysis capabilities.

Discussions with systems administrators and user groups have shown that information technology managers are reluctant "to trust [Neugents] for infrastructure management," said Patrick Dryden, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H. "But for data analysis, where it may show some helpful patterns you can use in your business, it makes sense."

Neugents ii is "a response to customer demand for tactical problem solving," said Dryden.

It also includes "those components of Jasmine ii needed to build Neugents ii applications," said Carl Hartman, eBusiness Management vice president at CA.

Neugents detect patterns in data and over time "learn" which patterns are significant, Hartman said.

The technology surpasses data mining in pattern detection, he said. "Data mining is fine when you know the question; Neugents find answers to questions you didn't know to ask," he said.

Neural network technology doesn't need defined fields in data to detect patterns, Dryden said, but can "look for string searches in text, like police reports.

"It's a brute force time-saver that throws processing power into looking at zillions of numbers and tells you, 'Here are some interesting trends,' but your business process people have to look at those trends and decide what's important," Dryden said.

With Neugents ii, results of the Neugent's pattern detection can be presented within the user's application, as a screen or series of screens, Hartman said.

New Scotland Yard in London is among the more than 500 sites doing Neugents proof of concepts, pilots or production implementations, Hartman said.

With crime on the rise and the number of police officers falling, London's Metropolitan Police Service was "looking for a way to leverage crime data it has," said Phil Stoneman, IT manager at New Scotland Yard.

Still in the proof-of-concept stage, the Neugents implementation will look at data from five databases, including crime reports, forensic evidence and mug shots, Stoneman said. "What we hope for from the Neugents is that they will detect patterns, especially in burglaries, that will help us identify serial burglars," he said., an East Brunswick, N.J.-based joint venture of Boston-based State Street Corp. and New York-based CityGroup, has finished a proof of concept and begun a pilot in its Retirement Planning Division, said Ira Schwartz, executive vice president and chief operating officer

The online financial consultancy had sought to analyze data on customers and whether or not they had bought a particular financial product. Lacking experience with Neugents, it sent the data to CA, which used Neugents to create profiles of customers who had and hadn't bought the financial product.

Of 1,000 non-buying customers, perhaps 200 fit the profile of a buyer, Schwartz said. That list will likely provide a high return of sales, he added.

Coal-based utilities are already using Neugents-based software NeuSight to help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act, said Ted Venners, chairman of utility services vendor KFX Inc. in Denver.

NeuSight, from KFX division Pegasus Technologies, monitors as many as 600 data points, such as temperature and weather, to determine the optimal conditions for clean burning of coal, Venners said. "That's too complex for human operators to calculate," he added.

Plants using NeuSight cut emissions of greenhouse gases such as nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) by an average of 30%, Venners said. "With dollar amounts attached to NOx and CO2 emissions, they see a return on investment in 60 to 90 days," he said. "They're investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to avoid spending tens of millions of dollars."

He said the software often brings plants into compliance with the Clean Air Act without the need to spend $40 million or more on a hardware scrubber.

AI Ware Inc., which produced the technology on which Neugents are based, was purchased by CA several years ago.

Pegasus held a licensing agreement from AI Ware for using the technology in energy industry software, an agreement CA honored after its purchase, Venners and Hartman said.

Hartman declined to comment on whether other licensing agreements exist or are contemplated.

"That's a caution" for customers to consider, Dryden said. "Anyone buying the software should maybe pin CA down to find out if there are any pre-existing licensing agreements" that might keep customers from using Neugents to build their own, competitive applications.

Neugents ii pricing begins at about $225,000, a CA spokesman said. Although starting price for Jasmine ii is "a few thousand for a small, single-process server," for most enterprise applications running on many servers, the cost would likely scale up to more than that of a similar implementation using Neugents ii, a CA spokesman said.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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