Into the Swarm: San Diego’s Swarmology Mines Online Conversations for Health Data

11/15/11Follow @bvbigelow

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identify a variety of characteristics in a given community—such as vibrancy, sentiment, traffic activity, and membership—”to connect the dots and predict where a given conversation is headed.”

Bohm says the technology is capable of identifying any individual, or group of individuals, or all of the individuals in a particular swarm, and also can identify the ideal moment to send a marketing message into the swarm on behalf of a customer. As Bohm likes to put it, “We can send the right message at the right time to the right people.”

For example, in an online discussion about cholesterol and heart disease, Bohm says Swarmology can predict the best opportunity for a health insurance company to send a message to key influencers, or to everyone in the swarm, with an offer for free cholesterol testing that includes a website link so they can register online.

The company’s technology relies partly on the field of “swarm intelligence,” loosely defined as the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems. “The math we have created looks for inherent patterns that similarly exist in natural swarms,” Bohm says. “We additionally apply Artificial Intelligence techniques as an overlay to better understand the direction the swarms will take.”

Since starting Swarmology almost a year ago, Bohm has funded most of the company’s operations. (He says, “I’m my own friend and my own family, and the initial round was me.”)

After completing his education in England, Bohm began his career in the pharmaceutical industry, rising through increasingly senior positions at Astra, Pfizer, Novartis, and other Big Pharmas. At Aspreva Pharmaceuticals, a Vancouver, B.C.-based biotech, Bohm served as the New Jersey-based executive director of global data sciences and reporting, and oversaw the company’s U.S. clinical operations. In 2008, Switzerland’s Galencia Group acquired Aspreva in a $915 million deal and merged it with its Vifor pharmaceutical operations.

By then, Bohm had started Trialytics, a healthcare analytics company later acquired by New Jersey-based SDI, which was itself acquired for an undisclosed amount earlier this year by IMS Health.

Bohm says Southern California’s Tech Coast Angels are providing about two-thirds of Swarmology’s new $1.2 million capital infusion. He plans to use the funding to expand the company’s five-person workforce by one or two employees and perhaps accelerate software development. Swarmology is moving into EvoNexus, the “no strings attached” incubator operated for free by CommNexus, the San Diego nonprofit technology industry group.

(Creative Commons credit: Photo of “Swarm Chandelier” in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum from Heatheronhertravels.com)

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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