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Data-analysis firm coming to UI

Article Source: The News-Gazette, Thu, 03/29/2012 – 8:00am, Don Dodson

CHAMPAIGN — Another publicly traded company is establishing an office in the University of Illinois Research Park.

This time, it’s Neustar Inc., which hopes to make strides in data analytics with the help of local employees and student interns.

The company plans to hire and recruit people with expertise in computer science, computer engineering, mathematics and statistics, said Joe Pasqua, vice president of the Neustar Labs division.

Neustar hasn’t determined exactly how many people it will employ at its “innovation center” at 2001 S. First St., C, Pasqua said.

But it will be in the neighborhood of a dozen or so the first year, he added. The company should have a better idea later this year of how much — and how quickly — it will ramp up operations.

Laura Frerichs, director of the research park, said the size of the space Neustar took “reflects optimism about the growth of the operation.”

The 3,550-square-foot space has seats for about 20 people already, she said.

The innovation center is to be dedicated this afternoon, with UI Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Neustar Chief Technology Officer Mark Bregman expected to attend.

Neustar, based in Sterling, Va., is probably best known for what it does to enable phone calls and Internet communications.

“If you’re going to make a phone call or look up something on the Web, we’re the first step in the process,” Pasqua said.

Neustar determines which phone numbers go to which carrier networks, he said. Plus, when people type in Web addresses, Neustar helps computers figure out how to get to the right place.

“We’re intimately involved in both the processes — completing telephone calls and Internet Web activity,” Pasqua said. “Those are just two of the services we do.”

Neustar collects “tons and tons of data” as it processes billions of queries a day from people’s computers, he said.

The company believes the data has “tremendous value” that can be used in providing new services to customers, he added.

Until now, Neustar Labs has mainly been concentrated in Sterling, Va., and San Diego and Mountain View, Calif.

Now it’s getting an outpost in the Midwest at a university well-known for computational talent.

“We did quite a bit of looking to find a place that has the right mix of university programs,” Pasqua said. “We made our final go-ahead plans toward the end of last year, in October and November.”

The goal of the Champaign innovation center will be “to generate new research results that will enhance product offerings,” he said.

But Neustar also wants to create a hiring pipeline for operations nationwide.

“We’re going to need more engineers and scientists in the company over the years, and we want to create a long-term relationship,” Pasqua said.

Pasqua cited two examples of projects the local center might handle.

In the first, Neustar has to determine where to put servers around the world to handle the billions of queries its gets each day.

“We have to look at and predict where the growth is going to be,” he said. “We have to analyze terabytes of data — what the trends are, where the load is, what the speed constraints are.”

A second project example involves helping Neustar customers detect fraud.

“How do we bring data to bear to better understand where fraudulent transactions might be taking place? It’s like finding the needle in the haystack,” Pasqua said.

To do that, Neustar needs to look closely at transactions from unusual places, transactions made at unusual times and transactions made from unfamiliar computers, he said.


About the company


Business: Provider of real-time information and analytics to more than 13,000 companies, many of them in the communications field.

Headquarters: Sterling, Va.

History: Once part of Lockheed Martin, it was divested in 1999. Neustar became publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange in 2005. In 2009, it was listed among Forbes magazine’s “25 Fastest Growing Tech Companies.”

Employees: 1,488 as of Dec. 31, 2011.

Revenues: $620 million in 2011.

Net income: $161 million in 2011.

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