Four Takeaways From IEEE Conferences on Big Data

Topics include sensor networks, privacy, and the role of humans

8 September 2014

Image: iStockphoto

Part of my job as a staff member of the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is attending conferences related to new potential areas for standards that have industry relevance, many of which relate to the growing field of big data. In 2013, I attended the IEEE International Congress on Big Data and the IEEE International Conference on Big Data, both in Santa Clara, Calif. I have continued to attend related conferences this year and look forward to the kickoff event for the new IEEE Big Data Initiative to be held on 1 and 2 October at Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, N.J. I’d like to share a few key takeaways from past conferences.

  1. Cloud Computing, Internet of Things, and Big Data are Inseparable Together, these three technology areas will provide the capabilities to collect, store, and make sense of more data than ever before. This will allow for new services and opportunities such as sensor data as a service and is of particular interest to IEEE-SA, which is evolving to encompass new emerging technology applications along with its foundational standards. For example, there are the IEEE 1451 sensor interoperability standard series, which define common functions for converting sensor data (e.g. temperature or motion) to electrical signals for system transport, along with network standards such as IEEE 802.15.4 Low Rate Wireless Personal Area Network. These are already combined in experimental implementations of sensor data as a service.
  1. Humans are as Essential as Technology for Analyzing Big Data
    While much is being discussed regarding software and hardware for analyzing big data, not as much is being said about human capacity and abilities. This idea was brought up in a keynote presentation I attended, which included the idea of crowdsourcing. This example of the need for humans to be involved in big-data work was to see possible matches where computers still had difficulty, such as the different spelling of names and addresses in a database, or properly matching descriptions to images.
  1. Big Data and Privacy are Not Mutually Exclusive
    Big data can give us an enormous amount of insight into our world, including detection of criminal activities. Software like Ma3tch uses algorithms to scan transactions that could lead to funding of terrorism acts or money laundering across financial systems in different countries. However, it does so in a way that complies with privacy and confidentiality regulations. The preservation of anonymity is still necessary, and there are examples of how to gain access to critical data without invading people’s personal lives.
  1. Homes are Only Going to Get Smarter
    The use of sensors and the data they produce will become prevalent in households for applications like monitoring the home’s energy efficiency. OpenFridge is one such program that can collect and analyze data about energy usage that can be delivered to homeowners, utilities, and even municipalities. Users will even be able to request visualizations of the data so they can better understand how much energy is being used and even compare their usage with other users. For example, with devices such as smart meters, programs like OpenFridge will be able to display energy usage by neighborhood.

Based on these and other topics covered at the conferences, it is clear there are great opportunities for IEEE and its members to help support the big-data field. Big data touches upon many of the organization’s areas of interests, including cloud computing, cybersecurity, Internet of Things, sensor networks, and more in building a connected world. It’s also important we support the people behind the work of big data and share data from research published in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library to enable faster discovery of new applications and breakthroughs. Ultimately, data needs to be transformed into information, which then must be transformed into knowledge we can all use.

Cherry Tom is the emerging technologies intelligence manager of the IEEE Standards Association, in Piscataway, N.J.

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