Real results from a cutting-edge concept

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of the Columbus Collaboratory. It’s on the cutting edge of business models: more cooperation to pursue the nascent technologies of analytics and artificial intelligence, which are uncertain and expensive, and coming together to fight common enemies through cybersecurity.

The term collaboration is thrown around a lot, but businesses leaders don’t always put their money where their mouths are. In this case, the seven founding companies — American Electric Power, Battelle, Cardinal Health, Huntington, L Brands, Nationwide and Ohio Health — have bigger budgets than most to work with, but it’s easy to see they got to be large corporations in the first place by playing smart.

It wasn’t until I spoke with President and CEO Matt Wald, however, that a nebulous concept came into focus.

To solve a problem, the Columbus Collaboratory brings its founders together around a topic, such as sharing threat intelligence to identify future cyber attackers. After hearing about best practices and challenges, the Columbus Collaboratory’s technical staff develops a prototype, a minimal viable product, which can be operationalized to drive value. It goes into a shared intellectual property library to be packaged for the commercial market.

The company also applies advanced analytics to data sets to generate insights. It has identified network traffic anomalies, classified customer complaints more accurately, optimized marketing offers and automated helpdesk interactions. In addition, the OhioHealth app’s “find care now” feature gives an estimated wait time for urgent care. That’s a Columbus Collaboratory predictive model.

In collaborative cyber offensive exercises, attackers and defenders simulate attacks. With a library of attacks, the Columbus Collaboratory is now focusing on the 80/20 rule: What are the 80 percent of attacks being observed by businesses today that are the most likely to cause harm?

One fortuitous synergy has been the opportunity for data scientists to work directly with cyber engineers. They apply analytics to cybersecurity problems.

Another boon has been the influx of talent. An out-of-state cyber leader was talked into relocating. Newly minted analytics Ph.D.s are being molded into professionals. A successful cyber job-feeder program, where computer science graduates rotate around the seven founders, is no longer just drawing from Midwestern schools.

Learn more about the Columbus Collaboratory here.