Continuum Analytics Using DARPA Funds to Explore Python

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) researches a lot of interesting stuff in the name of national security: extreme long-range missiles, drones, powered exoskeletons, even thought-controlled prosthetics.

Now it’s pouring money into Big Data.

Continuum Analytics, which offers a portfolio of Python-based data analytics tools, has announced a $3 million research grant via DARPA’s XDATA program, which researches computational techniques and open-source tools for analyzing data. The money will be used to develop NumPy, SciPy and visualization techniques for massive datasets.

“XDATA is a cornerstone of the government’s Big Data initiative, and we are excited to be a part of bringing open-source tools to the defense industry,” Peter Wang, President at Continuum Analytics, wrote in a Feb. 5 statement. “The tools we develop through this project will give DARPA a solid foundation for continued innovation in the rapid analysis and visual exploration of massive, interconnected data from heterogeneous sources.”

As part of the project, Continuum Analytics will continue development of Blaze, the “next generation” of NumPy, a Python extension that supports massive, multidimensional arrays and matrices (it also comes with a variety of functions to actually operate on those arrays). The company will work to extend Blaze’s capabilities still further.

“The development of Blaze contributes to the first part of the XDATA research effort of creating a scalable analytics and data processing technology,” read a Feb. 4 posting on the Continuum Analytics blog. “Blaze will combine multi-dimensional arrays (familiar to scientists) and relational tables (familiar to business analysts) into a single multi-dimensional table structure using a global N-dimensional table.”

The company will also pour funds into Bokeh, a visualization system for large, multidimensional datasets with an adaptive user interface.

“The core of our visualization system is a hybrid scene graph/data flow graph that can represent the structure of the input data as well as the data transforms at a very low, renderer level,” read the blog. “Using Python, Bokeh will combine the Stencil visualization model for primitive glyphs and simple vector expressions with the easy-to-use, flexible multidimensional mapping of Leland Wilkinson’s Grammar of Graphics.”

The system will give end users the ability to write simple expressions “that map dimensions of the input dataset to panels and facets of the layout, while transforming values of the input dataset to aesthetic properties of the graphical geometry for each facet.”

While DARPA will obviously use the final results for defense applications, there’s a high probability that the work done on these projects could apply to businesses in some fashion.


Image: Sergey Nivens/

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