The BIG project at Big Data World Congress, Munich, 3-4 December 2013
The BIG project had a strong presence at BIG Data World Congress in Munich in early December. There was a strategically-positioned stand in the exhibition hall. We met a number of delegates from many industrial sectors and countries, especially in the “speed dating” session where we perfected the BIG project’s elevator pitch in the quick-fire conversations! Project flyers and stickers were available in many places for people who wanted to learn about the project after the conference. The two day event was closed by a presentation from the BIG project’s director Josema Cavanillas, introducing the aims of the project and the outputs of our research.
The event featured case studies and panels on every aspect of Big Data technologies including governance, unstructured data, real-time analytics and much more. Attendees came from a wide range of organisations, including some big players in sectors such as manufacturing and telecoms. One exciting potential avenue of collaboration may be for BIG to work with the USA’s NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) as they are also developing cross-sector consensus requirements and roadmaps for Big Data.
Many speakers talked about how adopting Big Data could revolutionise the ways businesses operate, driving efficiency and faster product development. It is recognised by most if not all senior level executives as one of the key IT trends of the next few years - but this comes with the caveat that Big Data initiatives need to be aligned to clear outcomes and business processes in order to have a chance of success. The structure of organisations may need to be adapted to enable technical and business expertise to work together more closely to enable value to be derived from data. Even then, the pace of industry change may be such that organisations will look to form partnerships with start-ups and universities so as to drive innovation. The BIG project’s Public Private Forum could be a key enabler for these communities.
Europe-specific issues were highlighted in several talks. There was criticism of the apparent risk aversion of technology companies and their customers and the lack of a widespread start-up culture (apart from a few isolated exemplars). There are differences between Europe and the US in terms of data protection, the EU’s tougher legislation possibly being a barrier to innovation for some firms (on the other hand, the US’s relatively lax laws may have implications for privacy and the ethics of extensive data collection by businesses).
There were many interesting industrial applications of Big Data. The automotive industry is one of the largest creators of data, especially from telematics and in-vehicle sensors. These enormous, diverse datasets can provide value to many different areas of the business beyond the mechanics. A similar phenomenon was discussed by Philips Healthcare. Their imaging systems produce masses of data not just for engineers, but also system usage patterns to help sales staff understand customer demand.
Real time analytics are a hot topic in Big Data, and Procter & Gamble showed how their implementation had enabled some business decisions to be made within 24 hours rather than a month. For a manufacturing company involved in selling Fast Moving Consumer Goods this could be a considerable market advantage. Likewise in the media and entertainment sectors, Big Data is enabling new products and services. Established companies like Sony use analytics in their M2M (machine to machine) applications, while newer players like Spotify track usage of their music streaming services in deep detail.
Written by Helen Lippell (Press Association)
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