Big Data

Big data

What’s the challenge?

We are living in a data explosion where we generate and consume data faster than we can keep track of and secure. What are we going to do with all this data and how can we unlock its potential to make it work for society?

What can we use large quantities of data for?

  • Transport and smart cities: Oyster card data about when and where people travel around London can be analysed and used to help ease congestion. We can visualise this in maps such as London in motion
  • Personalised TV : Sites such as Netflix can use Big Data to see what type of programmes we watch
  • Advertising: Sites such as Google and Amazon can use Big Data to analyse what we buy and send us personalised recommendations.
  • Shopping: Supermarkets can also our shopping habits through club cards and send us personalised offers
  • Politics: Political parties can analyse the data of voters to make canvassing more effective
  • Weather: Large quantities of weather measurements can help give more accurate predictions
  • Health: Large quantities of data about personal health and disease transmission can help give more accurate predictions

Open Data

More and more data is becoming openly accessible, so anyone can download it, analyse it and share it. Some of these platforms are:

  • Openquake and the Global Earthquake Model store data on earthquakes over the last 1000 years to help with prediction
  • Open Street Map: Crowdsources geospatial data
  • MarineExplore: access to oceanographic data
  • EarthCube: Collecting data across the geosciences
  • NASA has created a supercomputer GEOS-5 which helps simulate cloud movement for weather forecasts

Professor Mike Batty, CASA, UCL
Professor Michael Batty chairs the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London. His research involves the development of computer models of cities and regions, and he has published numerous books and articles in this area, such as Cities and Complexity (MIT Press, 2005), which received the Alonso Prize of the Regional Science Association, and The New Science of Cities (MIT Press, 2013) http://www.complexcity.info). He received the Lauréat Prix International de Géographie Vautrin Lud. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society, and received the CBE award in 2004 for services to geography.

Dr Farida Vis, Research Fellow in the Social Sciences, The University of Sheffield
Farida Vis is a Research Fellow based in the Information School at the University of Sheffield. Her Fellowship is on the theme of ‘Big Data and Social Change’, focusing on social media, data journalism and citizen engagement. As part of her social media work, she is interested in critical methods for better understanding social media, Big Data and algorithms. She has published widely in this area, most recently as part of a special issue on ‘making data – Big Data and beyond’ in First Monday (October 2013).

She recently presented work on algorithmic cultures at ideas festival Future Everything (talk here) and a follow up to this at Improving Reality, part of the Brighton Digital Festival (talk here). She was recently appointed to the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Media. She is a founding member of Open Data Manchester and currently leads two funded projects (EPSRC and AHRC) on the politics and possible future(s) of urban agriculture in the UK.

As part of the 2013 ESRC Festival of Social Science she organized the very popular Researching Social Media conference, bringing together a wide range of researchers from academia, government, industry and the cultural sector. She coordinates the Researching Social Media MA module and her methods textbook, which in part arose from this teaching, co-authored with Information Scientist Mike Thelwall is forthcoming with Sage. She is a frequent public speaker and tweets as @flygirltwo

Ed Parsons, Geospatial Technologist, Google
Ed Parsons is a Geospatial Technologist at Google with responsibility for Google’s mission to organise the world’s information using geography.

Ed was the first Chief Technology Officer in the 200-year-old history of Ordnance Survey, and was instrumental in moving the focus of the organisation from mapping to Geographical Information. He came to the Ordnance Survey from Autodesk, where he was EMEA Applications Manager for the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Division.

He has a Masters degree in Applied Remote Sensing from Cranfield Institute of Technology and holds a Honorary Doctorate in Science from Kingston University, London and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

Your questions

Q 1 What are the commercial opportunities of geospatial technology?

Q 2 Are we deluding ourselves that we have individual privacy? Do we need to rethink what we mean by personal privacy?

Q 3 Are the huge volumes of big data too complex for humans? Are they now problems for computers to solve?

Q 4 How much control do we have about the data collected about us?

Q 5 We’re now looking for correlation between data sets not testing hypotheses, what’s the implication of this for academic research?

Q 6 It’s not about the size of data, it’s about how you bring different data sets together. What other opportunites does big data offer?

Q 7 Where do you see big data in 10 years time?

Q 8 Is it just a small community who can access big data? Is it making us more insular?

Q 9 Are we all just becoming data collectors?

Part 1

Part 2