Big Data speaker series kicks off in Goodes Hall

Presentations slotted for 175th celebration begin with IBM executive

The first event of the speaker series took place in Goodes Hall.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

On Tuesday evening, to kick off Queen’s 175th speaker series, IBM data analytics VP Paul Zikopoulos gave an in-depth presentation at Goodes Hall on the often-misunderstood use of ‘big data’.

Big data, he explained to the crowd, consists of large data sets that can be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations in human interactions and behaviour.

Zikopoulos, who is considered a global expert in data and analytical technology, described to an intimate crowd why big data is important to us and how data analytics have the potential to solve a myriad of social issues.

Topics he touched on included  sustainable healthcare costs and governmental bureaucratic inefficiencies — from a “360-degree perspective”. As well, businesses can observe consumer behaviour and demographics based on data retrieved from mobile phones and social media apps.

Big data is a combination of three factors. The first, the cloud, provides the infrastructure for big data to be compiled.

The second factor is social media. Everyone, he said, uses some form of it and it serves as a “pulse of individuality” for consumers. From analyzing social media activity, we know where younger generations are spending their time, what they’re consuming and for how long.

Mobile phones are the third factor, as the apps we use every day are the source of most of the analytical data collected by businesses today.

Zikopoulos further explained emerging trends in businesses, as well as what makes a company successful in the 21st century — and its all to do with analytical transformation, as he terms it.

Successful companies are hyper-personalizing their services and products based on the behavioural data of consumers, he said, and meeting needs in an unprecedentedly-tailored way.

“Everyone has the opportunity to disrupt almost anything with data,” he said. “Every company will be a data company in the future. Other companies will be disrupted, become data companies or cease to exist.”

Apps such as Pokemon Go, Snapchat, or Vine, to him, are prevalent collectors of observable data.

“If you don’t pay for a service, you are the product being sold,” he told the crowd. “We are collecting data. If you hook up to WiFi for free, its not for free. Loyalty program? We know about you.”

Zikopoulos used cultural examples to illustrate the power and scope of big data, noting that “Uber, a taxi company, owns no taxies. Facebook, a media company, creates no media.” The two are data companies.

In his mind, government efficiency and healthcare can also be improved by the use of big data analytics. The ability to view an organization from every possible angle, and derive causations and correlations from said data, would enable them to improve their interior structure.

In closing, Zikopoulos expressed his hope that big data will continue to fall into the hands of the everyday consumer, to further the democratic aspects of our data-driven societies.

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