Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a non-profit organization dedicated to the breeding, raising, training and placement of service dogs with people who are blind or visually impaired, is adopting the IBM Cloud for better management and faster access to its increasing canine data.
Since its founding in 1954, Guiding Eyes has graduated more than 7,300 guide dogs. But perhaps the most famous is two year-old, ‘Wrangler,’ a yellow Labrador Retriever who gained notoriety over the past year as a regular on NBC’s The Today Show.
Over the years Guiding Eyes has worked to continuously perfect its process for identifying preferred qualities in dogs such as health, confidence, love and temperament. Through its Canine Development Center (CDC), the organization has been a leader in canine genetics research, breeding technology, and behavioral development.
At the core of the CDC is data. Through many generations of selective breeding, the CDC has captured untold amounts of structured information such as medical records and complex genetic mapping. It has also generated volumes of unstructured data from virtually innumerable scanned hard-copy questionnaires that trainers and host families complete about their experiences with the dogs.
Not surprisingly, having collected more than a dozen generations of breeding information, data had become unwieldy to manage, increasingly difficult to access, and even harder to extract meaningful insights.
That’s when Guiding Eyes turned to IBM Cloud. By migrating more than half a million health records and more than 65,000 temperament records on thousands of dogs to the IBM Cloud, the organization would be afforded greater reliability, simplicity, and scalability. In addition, by being on the cloud, Guiding Eyes would be able to provide easier access to colleagues across the U.S., as well as partners and scientists, each of whom would be able to positively impact research and analysis of genetic and behavioral data.
Big Data Company
“People don’t typically think about an organization like ours as a Big Data company, but we cannot succeed or grow without it,” said Thomas Panek, President and CEO for Guiding Eyes. “By collecting information about our dogs over the years, we can dig into the data to pull out meaningful insights about health, behavior, temperament and so much more. However, all of that was becoming increasingly difficult on our legacy systems. By putting it on the IBM Cloud, we will simplify our IT and make our data more accessible for more analysis.”
Considering that it costs Guiding Eyes approximately $50,000 to train a guide dog, any improvements to the graduation rate, no matter how slight, will improve financial efficiencies and make more guide dogs available for those who need them.