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Tag: Big Data

Machine Learning for Dummies

Wednesday, 8 February, 2017 0 Comments

That’s the title of an wry and informative take by Grzegorz Ziemoński in DZone. His definition of Machine Learning is worth memorizing: “Computer doing statistics on Big Data.” If you want to learn some Machine Learning, but don’t know where to start, his “text is for dummies just like us” is recommended.

Along with offering a concise definition of Machine Learning, Ziemoński takes readers through the difference between supervised and unsupervised Machine Learning and he shows us how to use Amazon Machine Learning to make a simple prediction. The key questions for those wishing to do more are: What do you want to predict? What data do you have? What can you do to make it work?

For those still foggy about the relevance of this stuff, substitute Machine Learning for Big Data in this quote by Dan Ariely, founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight: “Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”

Thanks to Grzegorz Ziemoński, we can now get to first base, as it were.


Talkin’ Industry 4.0

Saturday, 5 November, 2016 0 Comments

Today, at the 29th IATEFL BESIG Annual Conference in Munich, I’ll be talking about the language of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its seven key components: Industry 4.0, IoT, Big Data, cloud computing, robotics, AI and cybersecurity.

As with the three preceding Industrial Revolutions, which were powered, respectively, by steam, electricity and transistors, the cyber-physical systems now driving this fourth upheaval will transform manufacturing and replace William Blake’s vision of dark Satanic sweatshops with that of a better, cleaner, cleverer place — the smart factory.

“And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?”

Jerusalem by William Blake (1757 — 1827)


Time passes, love fades and Dylan meets Big Data

Wednesday, 30 December, 2015 0 Comments

Although he’s a poet and a philosopher, Bob Dylan is not so ivory-tower that he scorns advertising, especially if it helps the Bob Dylan business. Back in 2004, he appeared in a commercial for Victoria’s Secret lingerie. In 2008 he did ads for Cadillac, and in 2009 he partnered with will.i.am for a Pepsi spot that aired during the Super Bowl. In October, IBM pulled off quite a coup when it coaxed Dylan into appearing in a commercial for its artificial intelligence software Watson. “I can read 800 million pages per second. My analysis shows your major themes are time passes and love fades,” Watson tells Dylan as the two riff on a song idea.

According to IBM, five Watson services analyzed 320 songs from Dylan’s archive and came up with the key trends of time passing and love fading. The message of the ad is that Watson not only thinks but learns about a topic. Among those topics are Big Data, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT), all of which will be major themes here on Rainy Day in 2016.

The IoT is about connecting devices to the internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from phones to washing machines to wearables and almost anything else you can think of. The concept also covers machine components such as an airplane engine or the drill of an oil rig. According to Gartner, more than 20 billion devices will be part of the IoT by 2020.


Word of the Year

Wednesday, 16 December, 2015 0 Comments

It’s time for the annual Rainy Day Awards and we’re launching this year’s series of seven with our Word of the Year. First, however, and to avoid confusion, a brief note on what the word is not. Although it resembles iota, which means “a very small amount”, and is related to the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet, it’s not iota. And while it looks a bit like jot, which is related to iota, and means to write down something briefly and quickly, it’s not jot, either.

The Rainy Day Word of the Year award goes to… IoT. The acronym means the Internet of Things, which is the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in objects, empowering them to send and receive data. This is going to be huge and the International Data Corporation predicts that the IoT will include more than 200 billion things globally connected by the end of 2020.

The key driver of the Internet of Things is the ease with which we can wirelessly connect mobile items to the Internet using WiFi, Bluetooth or proprietary wireless communications protocols. Farewell, then, forever to the days when Internet devices had to be wired to a fixed location.

But what does it mean for me, for you? Well, IoT devices coming our way include home automation like Google’s Nest, the Vessyl intelligent cup that monitors what you are drinking, the Beam tooth brush that reports on your dental hygiene history and the HAPIfork that records one’s eating habits. Added to all that, we have wearables: fitness trackers, smart watches, clever clothes and healthcare embeds such as pacemakers and glucose monitors. Automated cars will also have lots of IoT capabilities.

Beam toothbrush

Perhaps the most disruptive thing about the IoT is its ability to unbundle products and systems. Unbundling? Think of the MP3 audio format, which unbundled individual tracks from albums. That upended the music business. Airbnb has revolutionized the concept of renting homes and rooms and the iOT will enable all kinds of devices and services and products to be leased on demand.

The tsunami of data generated by the IoT will pose enormous privacy and moral questions that are only starting to be addressed. Who owns the health-related data streaming from your wrist? Should cars that monitor driving habits report road behaviour to employers and insurers?

While that’s being debated, the IoT will be creating job opportunities for people with the right (Big Data) skills. These include data analysis, network design and security management certification. The research companies have been predicting tech job growth in the order of millions for years now so a good IoT Christmas present for someone you love (?) might be Getting a Big Data Job For Dummies.

Tomorrow, here, the Rainy Day Drink of the Year award.


The new energy vampires

Tuesday, 24 February, 2015 0 Comments

Most homes use a lot less energy to heat or cool indoor air than they did in the 1970s. “That’s the good news,” says Matt Power of Green Builder Media, “But the bad news is that during that time we’ve added electric gadget after gadget to our ‘normal’ household environment.” These are the new energy vampires that drain away power in standby mode and they’re abetted by the digital devices that are constantly running or charging. Around the corner is the Internet of Things that will draw down even more electricity to to churn out Big Data.

Today, it was announced that the technology giant IBM and the chip designer ARM are marketing a “starter kit” designed to speed up the invention of internet-connected things. They say that “it can take just five minutes to unbox the equipment and start sending readings to online apps.” Not a word about the energy needed to make all this happen, though.

Internet of Things


Big Data powers Urban Engines

Wednesday, 21 May, 2014 0 Comments

Fact: By 2050, the global population will have reached nine billion.
Fact: For the first time in human history, the majority of people now live in cities.

Put the two facts together and one gets a future in which urban transport systems are going to be strained to breaking point. Unless city planners can manage the demand for services, there will be chaos. Enter Balaji Prabhakar and Shiva Shivakumar with their Urban Engines, which is offering solutions based on Big Data and behavioural economics. The San Francisco-based company is working with the World Bank to implement its approach for the bus system in Sao Paulo; in Singapore, it’s helping the city to ease train commuters from peak hours to off-peak hours; it’s carried out pilots projects in Bangalore, and it’s being deployed on the train system in Washington, D.C.

How does it work? Urban Engines takes data from commuter transit cards and uses its algorithms to infer how commuters and their trains and buses are behaving. No cameras or sensors needed. No major technology spend required.


Big data bull: Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie

Monday, 11 November, 2013 0 Comments

There’s a nice living to be made by conflating Big Data with Big Brother and scaring the life out of ordinary internet users. The likes of Andrew Keen and Evgeny Morozov are typical of the scaring species. “Both end up writing bad books because any interesting arguments they might have in them are overwhelmed by their need to position themselves in the attention economy,” wrote Henry Farrell in The Tech Intellectuals.

Now that that’s been said, let’s turn to Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie, a Holstein bull born in the USA in 2004. After the United States Department of Agriculture examined the 50,000 markers on his genome, it declared him to be the best bull in the land, and his 346 daughters today confirm his excellence. But his superiority was presaged by the data. “When Freddie had no daughter-records our equations predicted from his DNA that he would be the best bull,” Paul VanRaden, a research geneticist with the US Department of Agriculture, told Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic, who wrote “The Perfect Milk Machine: How Big Data Transformed the Dairy Industry.”

“Data-driven predictions are responsible for a massive transformation of America’s dairy cows. While other industries are just catching on to this whole ‘big data’ thing, the animal sciences — and dairy breeding in particular — have been using large amounts of data since long before VanRaden was calculating the outsized genetic impact of the most sought-after bulls with a pencil and paper in the 1980s,” writes Madrigal. Vegans and Big Data cynics inclined to condemn the dairy/data industry and its objectives should hold their fire because, as Madrigal points out, a lot of the statistical techniques and methodology developed by animal breeders connecting phenotype and genotype “could reach outside the medical realm to help us understand human’s evolution as well.” Prediction: Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie will be producing cream long after Evgeny Morozov has been cast into the milk churn of history.

Bull by Picasso


As cities get smarter

Friday, 11 October, 2013 0 Comments

There will be nine billion people on this planet by 2050 and the number of mega cities — defined as those with more than 10 million residents — is set to rise from 24 at the moment to 100 by the middle of this century. As a result, IT that helps cities better manage their resources will be big business. Intel, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, GE, BMW, Siemens and many others are looking to use software and sensors to guide urban development by analyzing and visualizing the big data sets that will be amassed daily in cities. The goal is the “smart city,” where sustainability, technology, security and economic opportunity integrate, and the idea is to use water, power, transportation systems and communication networks much more efficiently.

To get to there from here, new thinking is needed and IBM’s “People for Smarter Cities” initiative is encouraging urban dwellers to think laterally. Take billboards. They’re ubiquitous, so why not have them do something practical along with selling stuff? How about adding a simple curve to the top or bottom of a billboard to create shelter or seating for passers by?

Enabling the future city with its smart grids, smart transport, smart waste management and smart building systems is going to be one of the major 21st century challenges, but the benefits will be enormous for the players — telcos, IT companies, utilities providers and property developers — who successfully harness the technologies needed to for the task. We’re still a long way from living in the data-driven cities that many have been envisioning, but the conversation has started.


Reading Big Data

Wednesday, 25 September, 2013 0 Comments

Currently reading Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier. Definition: “Big Data refers to things one can do at a large scale that cannot be done at a smaller one, to extract new insights or create new forms of value, in ways that change markets, organizations, the relationship between citizens and government, and more.” In short, the two authors say, Big Data is about predictions. But Big Data is not new as Tim Smith explains in this depiction of CERN’s involvement with the concept over the past five decades.

And what, if anything, has that got to do with Google and its quest for life in the face of death that we posted about here on Monday? Well, a good place to start is Google Flu Trends. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier begin their book as follows: “In 2009 a new flu virus was discovered… As it happened, a few weeks before the H1NI virus made headlines, engineers at the Internet giant Google published a remarkable paper in the scientific journal Nature.”

Mining Big Data in the Alpine region of South Tyrol is our topic here on Friday.


Google on Life and Death

Monday, 23 September, 2013 1 Comment

“One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you’d add about three years to people’s average life expectancy. We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world, but when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.” So says search engine entrepreneur Larry Page in “The Audacity of Google”, the main feature article in the current issue of Time magazine, which plays up the interview on its cover with the dramatic title: Can Google Solve Death?.

In a post on Google+ dated 18 September, Page wrote: “I’m excited to announce Calico, a new company that will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases… These issues affect us all — from the decreased mobility and mental agility that comes with age, to life-threatening diseases that exact a terrible physical and emotional toll on individuals and families.”

Nabanita Das commented on the post: “quite an overpowering thought ….cancer is known to exist more than 5000 yrs back (as mentioned in epics ) ….it is the most persistent harbinger of natural (aging) death process ….any breakthrough will surely be multifaceted.”

But a close reading of Page’s comments in the Time interview suggest that “solving” the cancer problem is not what Page has in mind. Sure, the search for the cancer “cure” is regarded by many as the Holy Grail of modern medicine, but it does not follow that Page would see it this way. The reason is “Big Data”. More about that here on Wednesday.

Time


Big Data, Big Bucks

Monday, 13 February, 2012

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, data was declared a new class of economic asset, like currency or gold, during the presentation of a report titled “Big Data, Big Impact“. Here’s the Executive Summary:

“A flood of data is created every day by the interactions of billions of people using computers, GPS devices, cell phones, and medical devices. Many of these interactions occur through the use of mobile devices being used by people in the developing world, people whose needs and habits have been poorly understood until now. Researchers and policymakers are beginning to realise the potential for channelling these torrents of data into actionable information that can be used to identify needs, provide services, and predict and prevent crises for the benefit of low-income populations. Concerted action is needed by governments, development organisations, and companies to ensure that this data helps the individuals and the communities who create it.”

Those fine aspirations aside, the reality is that it’s the indefatigable masters of data harvesting, Google and Facebook, who will benefit most from purse seineing the web. Big bucks beckon for these Big Data behemots.