Signals Analytics

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Background

Signals Analytics  describes its work as assisting companies by using artificial intelligence “to extract data from external sources – such as blog posts, product reviews, and patents – and transform that data into accessible, usable, and relevant insights for your business.”1

Founded in 2009, the company has its headquarters in New York, USA, with an office in Netanya, Israel, and employs over 130 people.2

Signals Analytics primary product, the Signals Playbook, is a cloud-based data intelligence platform.3 The platform was recently used to study COVID-19, monitoring drugs that are being tested and tracking vaccine development.3

The company lists Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, Roche, and Mars among its clients.4 It is reportedly financed by Sequoia Capital, Qumra Capital, Pitango Growth, and TPY Capital.5

The founders of Signals Analytics, Gil Sadeh and Kobi Gershoni, served in Israeli military intelligence units.6

Relationship with the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

In March 2019, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), which is wholly funded by Philip Morris International (PMI), awarded a US$1.6 million contract to Signals Analytics to develop a “Nicotine Ecosystem Intelligence Platform and Smoking Cessation Playbook” through 2022.7

FSFW’s 2019 Annual Filings records that the contract value increased to US$2,130,000.8 According to FSFW’s March 2019 board meeting minutes, Signals Analytics’ work would cover: “Data gaps in cessation rates and bring together timely data on epidemiology, product availability and public and private perceptions of nicotine”.7

The Foundation described Signals Analytics’ work as “to apply cutting-edge data analytics to nicotine and its links to cessation, harm reduction and even cognitive enhancement”. It would build a business intelligence platform that would “identify, investigate and track signals, trends and opportunities in the nicotine and smoking cessation spheres”.7

In practice, this entails monitoring discussions on social media and other forums, which, as the company stresses, often precede reports published in official channels such as the media or academic journals.910

Addressing the board in March 2019, President of FSFW, Derek Yach, described Signals Analytics’ data platform as crucial to delivering evidence of how companies are supporting nicotine industry transformation or indeed, impeding it.7

FSFW’S 2019 Annual Tax Return reported that a second phase of the platform is under development to establish an “early warning system” that will identify and analyse “adverse events related to vaping”.8

That same year, a former Market Research Supervisor and Consumer Insights Executive at PMI Israel joined Signal Analytics as a Consultant, according to LinkedIn.11 The Consultant reportedly analyses “millions of data points (Big Data) to identify growth opportunities and support Fortune 500 clients’ [of which PMI is one] marketing and innovation decisions.” It is unknown if the same consultant is engaged in the FSFW contract.

Meanwhile, Dr Shlomi Madar, Vice President of Healthcare Solutions for Signals Analytics, has been a guest on Derek Yach’s podcast.12

EVALI and Signals Analytics

EVALI is the name for severe lung illness cases related to the use of e-cigarette and vaping products and was first identified in 2019.

As of 28 February 2020, a total of 2,807 hospitalized EVALI cases and 68 deaths were reported in the USA.13

Signals Analytics built a data-analysis platform to extract, classify and analyse information from social media to find out what had driven EVALI reporting and the wider ramifications for the industry. It also looked to predict further such outbreaks by early identification of reporting trends.

The company found that vaping-users routinely shared their experiences on social media and on online forums for various reasons, for example seeking advice to reporting lesser-known symptoms.10

A Signals Analytics’ research paper published in April 2020 highlighted the company’s use of its proprietary, AI-driven approach in this project.10 Pini Matzner, senior data scientist at Signals Analytics, said: “The platform detected early public reporting of seizures associated with cannabidoil (CBD) vaping almost a year before official reports were released”.10 Matzner delivered a presentation on advanced analytics at the 2020 Global Forum on Nicotine.14 The Forum is run by Knowledge-Action-Change Limited (K-A-C), which is a private organisation founded by Gerry Stimson. It is also funded by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW).

The FSFW used Signals Analytics’ research on EVALI to supports its own arguments on the regulation of next generation products and is making use of the company’s methodolgy.1516

Interest in China

In March 2019, the FSFW reported that Signals Analytics had been contracted to analyse three language groups: English, Japanese and Mandarin.7 In November 2019, China moved to ban vaping in public and online sales of e-cigarettes following public health concerns, jeopardising one of the industry’s largest markets, with over 7.4 million e-cigarette users.17 FSFW has made additional moves towards China in 2019, contracting the PR firm MarketKonnect, a subsidiary of APCO, to coordinate its activities in the country.

Relevant Links

Tobacco Tactics Resources

References

  1. Signals Analytics, Under The Hood: how Signals Analytics uses AI to turn disparate data points from external sources into actionable business insights, company website, March 2020, accessed July 2020
  2. Signals Analytics, Our Story, website, undated, accessed July 2020
  3. abSignals Analytics, Platform, website, undated, accessed July 2020
  4. Signals Analytics, Solutions, website, undated, accessed July 2020
  5. PR Newswire, Signals Analytics Receives Frost & Sullivan’s 2019 Technology Innovation Award, PR Newswire website, 20 March 2019, accessed June 2020
  6. Signals Analytics, Our Story, Signals Analytics website, undated, accessed June 2020
  7. abcdeFoundation for a Smoke-Free World, Minutes of a Special Meeting of the Board of Directors, FSFW website, March 28 2019, accessed June 2020
  8. abFoundation for a Smoke-Free World, Form 990-PF, 2019 Tax Return, 15 May 2020, accessed May 2020
  9. Signals Analytics, Analytic Apps, website, undated, accessed July 2020
  10. abcdP.Matzner, Using Advanced Analytics for the Early Detection of Pandemics and Outbreaks, p4, published on the company website, 13 April 2020, accessed July 2020
  11. S. Widerman, LinkedIn profile, undated, accessed July 2020
  12. D.Yach, Global Health Perspectives, Soundcloud, May 2020, accessed July 2020
  13. CDC, Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products, CDC website, updated 25 February 2020, accessed June 2020
  14. Global Forum on Nicotine, Pini Matzner – Advanced Analytics for the Public Good, YouTube, 13 June 2020, accessed June 2020
  15. M. Paskow, Facts and Figures: E-cigarette risk perception and the US EVALI outbreak, FSFW website, 12 May 2020, accessed June 2020
  16. A.Yurekli, Public Health Messaging and E-Cigarette Risk Perception During EVALI, FSFW website, 12 May 2020, accessed July 2020
  17. E. Chen & A. Stevenson, China Effectively Bans Online Sales of E-Cigarettes, New York Times, 1 Nov. 2019, accessed June 2020