This Baltimore training startup is built on a Defense Department API - Baltimore


Mar. 5, 2015 8:46 am

This Baltimore training startup is built on a Defense Department API

Yet Analytics, founded by the team behind An Estuary, builds on the DoD's Experience API. Now they want others to build on their work.

The team behind Yet Analytics.

(Image courtesy of Yet)

While working to develop technology that would improve professional development for teachers, the edtech team that made up An Estuary ran into a big issue around data.

“We were having problems in our own software related to data collection and data interoperability,” said Shelly Blake-Plock.

The solution birthed a new company: Yet Analytics.

In their efforts to address the data collection issues, the five-person team found other people in the open source community who shared their problems, too.

"It doesn't matter what content you're learning about through that system."
Margaret Roth, Yet

“You think you’re the only one with a problem,” said Blake-Plock, who is now CEO of Yet. “And then you look out, and there are some other crazy people trying to solve that same problem. And you can all work together.”

Some of those crazy people happened to be in the U.S. Department of Defense. That introduced Blake-Plock and company to Experience API.

Known as xAPI, it’s a tool the DoD developed to make data collection for remote training interoperable. That means the big data is able to work together and be interpreted across devices, simulations and environments.

For obvious reasons involving enemy hands, the U.S. military isn’t known for sharing technology. But the DoD made a crucial decision to open up xAPI for other developers to build off of it.

The Yet team recognized that making the data work together will have increasing value because of the increasing use of new technology like wearables, beacons, augmented reality and the Internet of Things.

“Once you start moving into that space, the ability to collect data interoperably becomes that much more important,” said Blake-Plock.

With the new data, a new level of analysis is also available.

“You’re just going to get to see things that you didn’t otherwise know were there,” Blake-Plock said.

Each of those elements produces different kinds of data, and have the ability to revolutionize training on their own. But there’s an additional level of technology required to make the data work together as a single training program, and analyze the results.


Instead of using xAPI to solve the problems they encountered with An Estuary, the Yet team decided to use it to develop a completely new product. Working in their space at the Emerging Technology Centers’ Eastern Campus, the team spent nine months developing Yet Core. The product, which will be released amid SXSW this month, is a data architecture that provides “a method of standardizing that data and making it smart before it hits the database,” Blake-Plock said.

Upon digging into xAPI, the Yet Analytics team recognized that it could be used for training in any discipline. The idea, in short, is that anyone who has a job needs training.

“It doesn’t matter what content you’re learning about through that system,” said Yet Chief Marketing Officer Margaret Roth.


(Image courtesy of Yet Analytics)

The company has already been using the technology across disciplines. Team members built an API integration for Unity Game Engine that collects flight simulator data.

Yet Analytics has been working on a Global City project with Fairfax Fire and Rescue and Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Va. Global City is conducting simulation training for EMTs and surgeons, and Yet’s platform is collecting data for the IoT and wearable devices used in that effort.

Last week, Yet announced a partnership with The Learning Accelerator, a Cupertino-based nonprofit that trains educators in blended learning. As the organization scales its model, the idea is that Yet scales alongside them.

The company’s efforts are underscored by a desire to have a real-world impact, and remain open. Out of that comes a desire to build community.

Blake-Plock and Roth are both firmly rooted in education technology. Along with their work on app development for An Estuary, Blake-Plock was a founder of the Digital Harbor Foundation, and Roth is a cofounder of the national group, EdTech Women. With Yet, they’re still looking to connect with others to solve problems.

Being open is a big part of that. After all, the openness of developers and the DoD is a big reason the company exists.

Like the system it’s built off of, Yet Core will remain open for others to develop new technology off what they built. The team — which handles all development in-house — has also gained a knack for the Clojure programming language, and they’re looking to connect with other developers who use it. Last week, CTO Jason Lewis taught a class on the language at Betamore. Lewis also helps to organize a monthly Clojure meetup at ETC Eastern.

Roth summed up Yet’s philosophy like this: “As this is a community effort and this is an open-source effort, we want to help as much as we can move that entire system forward, in addition to our own platform.”

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the lead reporter for Baltimore. A graduate of Northeastern University, he moved to Baltimore following a stint in New Orleans, where he served as managing editor of online news and culture publication NOLA Defender. While there, he also wrote for Times-Picayune. He was previously a reporter for the Rio Grande Sun of Northern New Mexico.


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