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Big data the next big thing, says expert

FEATURE

By: Deandra Morrison
Online reporter
morrisond@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Researchers believe big data will become the world's most valuable resource and it will soon knock oil off its pedestal.

“Statistics involve more than just throwing data on a page. Big data is a derivative from that, because we can use data to predict behaviour, extract values and to conduct data in a far more efficient way,” explained Head of Mona Geoinformatics Institute at the University of The West Indies Mona, Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, during the recently held 'Tech Charge: Smart Homes, Smart Businesses, Smart Nations' — the annual GraceKennedy Foundation Lecture at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.

He noted that every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated and this is largely due to the enormous increase in the use of cheap sensors that collect data, as well as many different platforms for the creation of new and original data.

“You have companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft that are just mining data and their entire existence is predicated on that,” he added.

Ayee informed that these platforms sold data collected from users to third parties for business development, product utilisation and market intelligence.

The geometrics expert insisted that despite coming under scrutiny from their respective government, these platforms were on the right path because big data crowdsourcing in real time or harvested from existing records will become the fuel for all “significant technological development moving forward”.

He said that data collected and analysed can help identify patterns and further improve areas such as the public sector's healthcare contributions, learning services and insurances services.

“As more data becomes available digitally, organisations can collect more accurate detailed information that can benefit inventory management and human resources efficiency improvements [to see] boosts in performance and management decisions,” outlined Lyew-Ayee. “Data collected from hospitals, don't only benefit them but can also be used in health insurance, pharmaceuticals and even crime.”

Lyew-Ayee said that the Geometric institute — which provides analyses, recommend detailed solutions, and design crucial components for organisations — has collected data relative to the road networks in Jamaica.

This data, when analysed was able to assist in identifying various “hot crash spots in Jamaica”.

However, Lyew-Ayee warned that while big data was beneficial, large amounts of data can be manipulated to produce results that aren't necessarily true.

For instance, he pointed out that mined crime data that showed crime hotspots in Jamaica can be manipulated by changing the colour scheme on a choropleth map.

The colour scheme change may indicate that some crime spots in Jamaica are “hotter” than some when that may not necessarily be true.

According to Lyew-Ayee, big data that has been mined properly have also aided in creating “smart businesses”, “smart homes”, and “ smartphones”— which have become a staple for people all over the world.

He also noted that with the advent of these new technologies and the harvest of sensitive user information, cyber hacking has become a cause for concern, especially in the most technologically advanced countries.

Tech Charge, which was held on March 7, marks the 30th lecture staged by the GraceKennedy Foundation since the series started in 1989.