Q&A Touches on the Emerging Field of Big Data Analytics and Its Impact on Future Innovation
by Kevin W. Irland
Ashok Srivastava is Verizon’s chief data scientist and leads a newly created data analytics team and research lab in Palo Alto, Calif., that will help guide Verizon’s strategic direction in the areas of data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. I recently sat down with Ashok to get his perspectives on these emerging fields and how big data will play a key role in driving efficiency for Verizon’s infrastructure and lead to the development of innovative products and services.
Kevin W. Irland: Please tell me a little about your background.
Ashok Srivastava: My career really got started when I was a sophomore at the University of Colorado at Boulder studying electrical engineering. I worked at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and helped build a real-time system that measured and analyzed data from high- and low-temperature superconductors. During my Ph.D. I started developing algorithms to analyze and forecast volatility in the equities and futures markets and focused my work in the areas of machine learning and control. After completing my Ph.D. I worked at several great places including startups, major corporations, and NASA. I also advised numerous startups and worked as a venture advisor at a venture capital firm in Palo Alto, Calif. At NASA, I led the data sciences group, as well as a large research and development program on advanced technologies to improve the safety of commercial aircraft.
KWI: You hold the title of chief data scientist for Verizon and lead a newly created data analytics team. Can you describe your team?
AS: My team consists of very high-caliber individuals with expertise in large-scale machine learning, algorithm development, data science, platform engineering, analytics and reporting, and product management. The team includes recent Ph.D. graduates, experienced platform engineers and analytical application developers, seasoned product managers, and large-scale system engineers.
KWI: Big data and data analytics is a broad topic. What will your team focus on?
AS: Verizon is developing innovative products and technologies based on big data to help customers gain greater insight into their internal operations and their own customers. Within Verizon, we are currently focusing on several key areas.
- Development of a new computing and storage platform that will house data from numerous sources across Verizon.
- Building of a new digital advertising platform powered by large-scale machine learning and analytics.
- Design of a suite of products to help improve the speed and resiliency of Verizon networks.
- Creation of a connected machine analytics platform which will give enterprise customers additional capabilities to understand and manage their machine-to-machine devices.
KWI: Why did you decide to come to Verizon?
AS: I am completely fascinated by the prospect of data-driven prediction and discovery. When I was approached by Verizon I found the opportunity to be very unique in its depth and breadth which is something that I found very interesting and appealing. The ability to build a new team focused on big data, analytics and large-scale machine learning represents a rare chance to play an instrumental role in helping to transform a leading U.S. company while delivering social value to our customers.
KWI: Looking to the future, how do you think enterprises should leverage big data and data analytics will change the face of IT and create competitive advantage?
AS: In the future we will see large and small enterprises making more decisions based on the massive amounts of data being generated through transactions, sensors, networks, and other systems. The only way to understand that data is through the use of big data and analytics. Verizon is well positioned to provide the communications, computing, storage, and analytical products and services to serve this growing market.