Big Data discussions

On Tuesday, Conor Smyth, Head of Research and Geodata Services at EDINA attended the fourth Geo: The Big 5 event on Big Data hosted at IBM HQ, London.

The objective of the event was to provide a forum for knowledge exchange of the opportunities that flow from the nexus of big data and location to private and public sector businesses, incorporating technical concepts, business value and real-world use cases.

Around 90 delegates attended.  Conor observed, unfortunately, that academic representation was low amongst those 160 as those attending came to hear a number of excellent Keynote and invited speakers deliver presentations in dual stream (strategy and technical) conference programme format covering themes relating to:

Concepts – What is big data, how does location augment it and why should I care?

Data Management – Hasn’t location data always been big?

Predictive Analytics – What does location bring to the party?

Use Cases and real applications – Where is big data and location really adding business value?

Conor’s summary of the keynotes points to a set of particularly interesting speakers:

Harvey Lewis, Director of Data and Analytics research at Deloitte introduced the three Ws of ‘Big Data: What, Why, WHERE?’ WHAT is it? WHY is it important? WHERE does it come from and WHERE is it going?

Dr Phil Tetlow, Chief Architect for Big Data at IBM (UK) provided an excellent presentation on ‘The Power of Spimes’, the combination of space and time information (Spime) to create something compelling (i.e. value) that differentiate organisations in the marketplace.

Mike Whiteledge, Senior Insight Manager, (Information Management team), Marks and Spencer focused on the challenges and opportunities of the changing retail environment and customer behaviour coupled with technological advances in data handling capabilities that has allowed M&S to refine their customer offer and channel to market driving overall business benefit through the use of geographical data.

I particularly like the M&S example. I recently presented to the Scottish Learning Festival on ensuring tomorrow’s workforce are spatially literate. I highlighted the number of sectors that use geographic information and why teachers should be making use of the learning outcomes within the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence to ensure pupils at secondary schools are familiar with geographic information in an ICT setting. Wish I’d had the M&S example for that session!

Getting back to Geo: The Big 5 event, other speakers provided sectoral representation from Google, Ordnance Survey, Consultancy, Technology and Telecommunication areas.

Conor’s overall view was the event was upbeat, informative, very engaging and an excellent opportunity to hear, meet and learn from some of the leading thinkers in this space, in addition to wider networking opportunities throughout the day. But he did feel it disappointing that academic representation was low. And this sentiment follows on last month’s post on why attend commercial events – grounding oneself in how industry today are making use of GI is useful for us all.

The event forms part of a year-long series of activities marking the 25th Anniversary of the AGI and material from each event will inform a series of white papers, leading to the publication of the AGI’s third foresight report predicting future trends through to 2020.

About Anne

Anne is service manager for Digimap for Schools, Digimap for Colleges and GoGeo. Having a degree in Geography and an MSc in GIS means naturally she adores looking at maps. But Anne firmly believes Digimap for Schools can be of use across many parts of the curriculum and finds the addition of historical maps particularly exciting! Anne is looking forward to ensuring Digimap for Colleges is a great success in the FE sector also. Having worked in the wider GI industry before joining EDINA she understands the valuable role geoportals like GoGeo can play in the discovery and reuse of geospatial data.
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