MIT, Intel collaborate to research big data

Big data can improve economic analysis, further customize medical treatments, make retail more dynamic and help government become more responsive. But who will figure it out?
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Intel announced yesterday that it has chosen the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be its newest Intel Science and Technology Center, with a focus on big data.

The center -- hosted by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or CSAIL -- has a mission to "accelerate the pace of scientific and medical discoveries, enterprise and industrial computing and encourage innovation in the design of new data-intensive end-user experiences." It will draw expertise from MIT as well as the University of California at Santa Barbara, Portland State University, Brown University, University of Washington and Stanford University.

Intel sees potential in big data, but it needs help to exploit it. The company is using its deep pockets to fund researchers with the hope of finding new computational methods that can allow it to better store and manipulate data -- which it can then commercialize and sell to companies that need it most, such as those in the finance or media sectors.

"We are witnessing unprecedented growth in unstructured digital data," said Intel CTO Justin Rattner, "and this will only accelerate further through the rapid increase of mobile Internet devices such as phones, cars and signs, and the projected development of the ‘Internet of Things,’ which will be constantly sensing the world around us."

Intel has opened six research centers in the last year and a half; the others are focused on visual computing, secure computing, cloud computing, embedded computing and pervasive computing.

Big data is a big enough challenge to require its own center. Because all that data -- structured, unstructured, constantly changing and never-ending -- is a poor fit for the relational models of conventional database systems, the holy grail of complex, real-time decision-making remains elusive.

The MIT center will focus on "designing and prototyping hardware and software for storing, managing, processing, understanding and visualizing data; discovering novel algorithms and scalable, co-designed architectural alternatives; and innovative ways of optimizing modern processor technology trends such as multicore, manycore and emerging non-volatile memory technologies," Intel says.

For the non-techies among you, that means:

  • Improved economic analysis by better understanding the myriad factors driving the global economy, from financial transactions to reactions on social networks to political developments.
  • More customized medical treatments through the use of genetic information.
  • Better retailing by tracking every customer interaction on the front end and every product movement on the back end to update pricing accordingly.
  • More responsive public safety, be it for disasters or crime, by actually using all the data collected across different agencies.

A lot of these things are too complex or costly for the average business to entertain; Intel hopes big data can help bridge that gap.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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