Reflections beyond Big Data Week – #bigdata #bdwbelfast

I’ve had some time to reflect on a few things recently, one of which was the Big Data Week Belfast panel.


It was a delight to sit with my friend Tom Gray, CTO of Kainos, Adele Marshall director of research at Centre for Statistical Science at Queens University and Padraic Sheerin of the Prudential who had the unenviable task of keeping us all in order, he did a good job.

Now for the record I usually make sure of two things when I’m asked to do a panel. Firstly, I’ll be an independent voice and I certainly don’t arrive to tow a sales departments voice or check with PR or HR about what can or can’t be said. Spade’s a spade and all that. Secondly, I tend not to hang about afterwards…..

I made a few points but time was precious so I didn’t get time to elaborate as much as I could have.

“A new set of cliches”

I think we’re at a point now where big data is just data. The real mission is how to, if there’s a case to, process it. BigData has now resolved itself to a worn out marketing term but it’s fair to be said that it’s the term that companies still look up to.

So I firmly believe it’s time to use a new set of cliches and that means coming up with a new set of terms first.

“What advice for SME’s?”

We did establish that the price of utility computing is coming down, something I also emphasised in The Profit Margin interview. What I will say again and again is know what question you’re trying to answer. Then ensure you have the right data to hand. I’ve come across companies who want to know their target audience but never actually retained the customer data in order to get that answer.

I know it sounds daft but the harsh reality is that a lot of companies don’t know.  Also, these kinds of questions are rarely from a technical perspective but come from all parts of the board, C level and employee levels of the company.

I liken a data project in the same was as a web design project, we’ve got to that point. I don’t believe one tool will save you but a suite of skills that may come from different people. Storages costs are down, processing costs are down, putting it in the cloud costs are down…. it’s the brains to make it all work that are the main cost.

“The Health Opportunities…..”

A huge talking point at the moment is between health in terms of prediction, savings and monitoring and the over hyped Internet of Things (IoT). To be honest I didn’t say much here this is really more Tom and Adele’s gig than mine. Though saying that I did throw in a curve ball.

I used the Clubcard data as an example (don’t I always), this time though with the emphasis on data collaboration. The majority of hands went up when I asked who was a Clubcard holder. With those hands up I threw the ball, “who’d be happy for that transaction data to be sold for health monitoring purposes?”.

No surprises, 99% of the hands went down. I believe this is what’s next, data collaboration on a massive scale. Tesco sharing data with insurance companies (they have one already so chances are it’s already happening to a point). A health startup being able to see the rough levels and categories of food shopping, alcohol consumption and so on. Could you predict a family’s health outlook by they shopping habits, you probably could. If a supermarket can determine what trimester a pregnant mother is in, then yes anything is possible.

“A New Name for Big Data”

Gerald, Bruce…. I’ll settle with Data Analytics.


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