What Do Asteroids And Predictive Intelligence Have In Common?


When people think of asteroids, they think of a massive rock hurtling without warning into Earth’s atmosphere, destroying population centers. But what if data could save us? 

Daniel Schwartz, UX designer at 6sense, believes it can. In October 2014 Daniel joined Team Nova for NASA’s Asteroid Hackathon at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. The hackathon’s purpose was to “find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them.” 

“I was excited to work with NASA’s and their partners’ amazing data sets to create a software application that helps educate the general public about asteroids and their dangers,” said Daniel. Nova’s solution, Ask Major Tom, was an interactive web-based application that visualizes asteroid data and allows users to explore the dangers of individual asteroids and also tweet their details. Major Tom sound familiar? It’s also the fictional astronaut referenced in many of David Bowie’s songs. 

Team Nova won first place in the hackathon for its feature set and elegant design (thanks to our UX guru Daniel) and for the learning opportunities inherent in the experience. “The goal was not to create a professional tool for scientists, but rather an experience that would be accessible and inviting for the general public,” said Daniel. The most rewarding part, from Daniel, was that users ended up discovering new relationships among asteroids through the application.

In 2015,  Dr José Luis Galache (Acting Deputy Director, Minor Planet Center) and DJ Ursal (Lead of Team NOVA at the hackathon event and Director, Product Management at Oracle) teamed up together through an Oracle Volunteering initiative with the goal of launching a production-quality version of the application. Daniel was invited back to work on the UI design and development. In June, after months of hard work and planning, a new and improved version was released for the public to use. New findings and patterns have already been identified with some of the new data visualization features. Daniel says, “I am so excited that this tool is leading to new insights and to see where it will lead the public and scientists alike with asteroid education and discovery.” Daniel sees participation in such hackathons as a way to stay fresh creatively and discover new design paradigms that can inspire his work at 6sense, where he leads our product interaction design, visual design and user research efforts.

At 6sense, we recognize that whether it’s asteroid data or buyer intent data, there exists a power for precise predictions that can change a company’s marketing plan or save the planet. Finding and scoring leads that are ready to buy now should not seem as unpredictable as an asteroid hitting the earth. 

After all, as Daniel says, “tapping into and understanding data can protect mankind.”

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