Neural Networks at the 2015 Interop Conference

The Interop Conference is one of the largest IT conferences in the world. I will be speaking at the 2015 event, from April 27 to May 1. See

My talk is titled “Solving Business Problems With Neural Networks”. I recently sat down with Clark Buckner, who works for Technology Advice, and discussed trends in IT and software, my upcoming talk, and a bit about my role at Microsoft Research.


To join me at Interop Las Vegas, go to and enter the speaker discount code: SPEAKERVIP for 25% off the price of the Total Access, 3 Day Conference, 2 Day Workshop passes or a Free Expo pass.

You can listen to a 15-minute audio podcast of my talk with Clark at:

Here is a transcript of some of the podcast:

James McCaffrey, Senior RSDE at Microsoft Research, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on trends and challenges in the business intelligence industry. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner, explores a variety of business and technology landscapes through conversations with industry leaders.

McCaffrey joined Buckner to discuss neural networks, machine learning, and the topics he will be covering during his presentation at Interop Las Vegas: Solving Business Problems with Neural Networks. (See )

Here are a few of the highlights from our conversation:

TA: What is the biggest trend you’ve noticed in business intelligence this year?

James: The one thing that stands out more than anything else is that there’s just been a huge increase in interest in business intelligence and data science over the last six to eight months. Business intelligence has been around for many years, but because organizations can now harvest that data and store it in the cloud, the demand has exploded. Organizations now have access to all this data that they can dive into and make accurate decisions that affect their bottom lines.

In the 1990’s, people knew the Internet existed, but didn’t really understand what it was. Then it seems almost overnight the Internet became an essential tool for conducting business. In the same fashion, we’re seeing business intelligence become increasingly vital to driving key decisions in companies of all different sizes, and this switch will happen very fast.

Right now, we’ve raced ahead in our ability to capture data and what’s lagging behind is the ability to analyze those vast amounts of data. Traditional techniques were developed in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s before computers. And they rely on classical methodologies like calculus. Literally I’d say within the next one to two years we’re going to develop tools that will be able to support and crunch the data into valuable insights.

TA: Give us some insight on what you will be presenting at Interop Las Vegas this year.

James: Neural networks are one form of what’s called machine learning. Machine learning is just sort of a fancy way to say, ‘making predictions using data.’ Neural networks are these things that most people are somewhat vaguely familiar with — they are software systems that are modelled on biological synapses and neurons. In my talk at Interop, I’m going to explain this in detail so the information is easily understood — help people wade through all the scientific terms and industry jargon. That way we can delve into why they’re one of the key components that organizations can use to make powerful predictions using data.

Consider this, think about all the data that has been collected from the dawn of civilization until now. I’m talking about cave paintings, Egyptian papyrus scrolls, medieval books, modern books, electronic data, email messages, photos on social media, video and every other form of data you can think of. Now, think about this huge amount of data. Stunningly, over 90 percent of that data has been generated and collected in the last 12 months. It’s just astonishing. The rate of data generation collection is growing at 50 percent every year. This is almost impossible to wrap your head around — and that’s why neural networks and other forms of machine learning are growing so much in popularity.

TA: Wow, that’s a staggering statistic — but it certainly makes sense considering all industries seem to be culling data any way they can. For instance, email marketers are always collecting data on their consumers to find the best marketing automation strategies that will increase conversion rates. How can businesses keep up with constantly changing technology like this without falling behind? (See )

James: There is a real risk for organizations that don’t take action and be proactive about business intelligence. Think about what happened to a lot of the printed publishers, magazines, newspapers etc. Instead of seeing the Internet as a threat or ignoring it altogether, the companies that are still around are the ones that embraced it and learned to adapt it as a new way to do business. The companies that waited too long or tried to skirt around the Internet are the ones that went under.

The single best way to keep up with the latest industry trends, in my opinion is attending conferences. It’s one thing to read about stuff online through various trade outlets — I personally write for InformationWeek ( and MSDN Magazine — but at events like Interop, you get to immerse yourself in the community and latest news. The sessions and workshops are very insightful, but I find the most value from ad hoc, unplanned conversations and meetings with other attendees. Networking and interacting with your peers is priceless.

Listen to the entire show above in order to hear our full conversation, or download the show to listen later. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud (see, in order to get alerts about new episodes. You can also subscribe to the Interop interviews from TechnologyAdvice (see ).

This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Clark Buckner (see ).

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