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Computer Explores Opportunities and Challenges of Big Data

IEEE Computer Society, producer of Rock Stars of Big Data, has been covering advances in the field of Big Data in its conferences and publications since the term was coined in 2003. But this month, Computer, the organization’s flagship publication, is delving deeper into the subject with a special issue.

In the Big Data: Opportunities and Challenges issue, guest editors Katina Michael of the University of Wollongong and Keith W. Miller of the University of Missouri-St. Louis have organized a series of articles exploring various aspects, from legal and policy issues to how big data can be used to spur innovation and solve societal problems.

The guest editors note that although data mining in one form or another has occurred since people started to maintain records in the modern era, the volume of diversity of data requires ever-increasing processing speeds, yet must be stored economically and fed back into business-process life cycles in a timely manner.

Jess Hemerly, a public policy and government relations analyst at Google, provides an overview of public policy considerations for a data-driven future. In the accompanying podcast, Hemerly emphasizes the need to tread carefully in the regulation of data flows so as not to adversely impact innovation stemming from the data sciences. You can listen to the podcast here.

Paul Tallon addresses the need for big data governance and the cost of big data to organizations. In his accompanying podcast, he discusses how projection models can help individuals responsible for data handling plan for and understand big data storage issues.

Jeremy Pitt and his coauthors write on the need to understand big data within the context of collective awareness, as a smart grid infrastructure can have a positive impact on societal transformation toward sustainability. His accompanying podcast details how integrating social and sensor networks can transform big data into a higher form of collective awareness that can motivate users to self-organize and create innovative solutions.

Marcus Wigan and Roger Clarke explore the consequences of big data, including legality, data quality, disparate data meanings, and process quality. Their accompanying podcast discussed how businesses and governments use big data, often without regard to the legality. Listen to it here.

The issue also includes a case study by Carolyn McGregor on the hopes of big data in the health informatics space. Listen to this podcast on how big data is being used to save premature babies.

We hope you will register for Rock Stars of Big Data to hear from industry experts on how you can take advantage of big data in your organization. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy these cutting-edge articles from Computer magazine.

Big Data Experts Are Hard to Find

As with the emergence of any new technology shift, the consultants are the first to notice the widespread implications. McKinsey in 2011 warned that the increasing volume of information that enterprises capture from multimedia, social media, and the Internet of Things will force leaders in every sector to grapple with the implications of Big Data.

While noting the many ways that Big Data can create value for organizations—making data transparent and usable, collecting more detailed information for better management decisions, and allowing for greater segmentation and improved new product development—McKinsey also warned of the dearth of talent able to manage Big Data projects and implementation.

According to McKinsey, by 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of Big Data to make effective decisions.

Now, universities are attempting to fill the gap with specialized programs. One of the crop of new programs springing up, as IEEE Spectrum reported earlier this week, is a M.S. in Business Analytics program at the University of Texas at Austin. Other universities creating Big Data programs include North ­Carolina State University, in Raleigh, Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., New York University, and the University of Michigan–Dearborn.

Internationally, Deakin ­University in Melbourne, Australia; the University of Warwick, the University of Strathclyde, and University ­College Dublin in the UK and Ireland; and  the Indian Institute of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management in India.

The programs typically run for one year, combine knowledge from computer science, statistics, and business, and require students to have a quantitative background.

The need for greater understanding of how Big Data can be used is one of the reasons IEEE Computer Society is hosting Rock Stars of Big Data, 29 October at the Computer History Museum in the Silicon Valley.  If you want to learn more about Big Data, we invite you to join us to hear how Big Data is being used in a variety of organizations.

Introducing Rock Stars of Big Data

It used to be that only a select few people within enterprises stayed up at night worrying about how data was going to be managed, maintained, stored, and analyzed. In that quaint-seeming corporate world we once inhabited—the world before social media, user-generated content, video, photo-sharing, high-performance computing, smart phones, and tablets—data was the province of database administrators and analysts or managers working in finance, sales and marketing, order fulfillment, or customer service.

To those in the C-level suite, data meant that standard roster of colorful bar graphs or pie charts that were viewed to quickly gauge the company’s performance and report to investors and employees. If data kept a CEO awake at night, it probably had more to do with the data itself and the message it sent about company performance than about the volume or variety of data the organization had to manage and maintain.

Now, however, concern about data has spread to every corner of the organization. The predictions of future data volume are astounding, and nearly incomprehensive. We are no longer dealing with gigabytes, terabytes, or petabytes. Rather, in the brave new world we inhabit, data is increasingly measured in exabytes and zettabytes. (And in case you’re still orienting yourself to this strange new land, 1 zettabyte equals 1 million petabytes, 1 billion terabytes, and 1 trillion gigabytes). They don’t call it Big Data for nothing.

This may sound worrisome, but what better antidote for easing worry than gathering information and expertise from some of the biggest names in Big Data? To help you and your organization deal with the influx of information threatening to drown us all, IEEE Computer Society has assembled 10 of the best and brightest minds in the world of Big Data. View some of their profiles here.

Rock Stars of Big Data, scheduled for October 29 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, will give you the knowledge you need and solutions to some of the biggest challenges in Big Data. Stay tuned for more. And in the meantime, follow Rock Stars of Big Data on Twitter at to make sure you receive the latest updates about the world of Big Data.

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