Data affects all of our lives, from how businesses cater to our demands to how governments allocate resources.
The term “big data” refers to huge sets of information that are so large and complex that they can’t be dissected by traditional methods, but they can be a powerful tool if used properly. Large corporations use big data to tease out trends among their customer base, and scientists use it to create climate prediction models, for example.
Missoula is home to several companies and organizations that work with big data, including Inteneo Systems, SemanticWeb, onXmaps, LMG Security, GCS Research and the University of Montana.
That’s why a group of forward-looking folks have organized the first-ever Big Data Week in Missoula, set for May 5-9, with the Montana Cyber Triathlon at UM kicking things off on Saturday, May 3.
“It’s an international movement to spotlight the power of big data shaping culture and connecting people and how it has all sorts of implications for business and technology,” said Missoula city councilwoman Caitlin Copple, one of the event’s organizers. “Missoula is the smallest city participating, but it’s important to me because I feel like there is a powerful big data cluster that has emerged in Missoula.”
Copple chairs the city council’s Economic Development Subcommittee and is spearheading city-county broadband efforts aimed at growing the tech sector.
“Big data needs big broadband, and it’s our job as policymakers to make sure businesses and entrepreneurs have access to the essential infrastructure they need to thrive in Missoula,” she said.
The event will feature a series of lectures, demonstrations, lunches, meet and greets, statistics presentations and beer donated by Big Sky Brewing Co. Copple said that big data means a big boost for Montana’s economy if it can be used.
“I want to do everything to support big data in Missoula,” she said. “It means good-paying jobs, the types of jobs that allow people to stay in Missoula. That means more people that want to come back and live here and raise a family here will be able to do so. These jobs pay well above the median income.”
Copple said that the Missoula Economic Partnership has identified several of the best industries for Missoula, and information technology is one.
“Big data falls under that umbrella,” she said. “We are poised to take advantage of what big data can offer through broadband access and communications technology companies. It’s a natural thing for us to do and take advantage of the momentum that’s going on here.”
Copple said that all events are free and open to the public, and you don’t need to be a data expert or a technology whiz to attend.
“I’m going to learn a lot,” she said. “There is one presentation on Wednesday, May 7, called ‘Big Data For Dummies.’ I’m definitely going to be at that one.”
The local Big Data Week organizing committee includes Copple and Jason Wiener from the City Council, Melanie Brock from the Missoula Economic Partnership, Russ Fletcher of Inteneo Systems and Montana Associated Technology Roundtables, Eric Tangedahl of the UM Business School, and Eric Franzon of SemanticWeb.com.
London-based co-founder Andrew Gregson has helped advise the Missoula organizing committee.
“The role of data in business, health, science, technology, retail and entertainment will be a key differentiator for the organizations that succeed in the next digital wave,” explained co-founder Andrew Gregson, who lives in London and has been assisting Missoula. “Big Data Week educates and creates new opportunities for organizations of all shapes and sizes in understanding what big data can do for them now and in the future.”
Russ Fletcher, the co-founder of Inteneo Systems, a company that provides data systems to companies, said that Big Data Week was started in England to promote big data in very large cities. Events will be held in cities all over the world that week.
“I thought, let’s put Missoula on the map,” he said. “There are a number of data-focused companies in Missoula. So I called them up and asked if Missoula would be considered a big data center. And they said yes. The university has led a number of education efforts, including the Cyber Lab. Missoula will be listed there with some of the biggest cities in the world.”
More than 30 cities across the globe are taking part, including New York, Berlin, Chicago and Zurich.
There will be two events a day, Fletcher said, with speakers from private businesses, nonprofits and government entities.
“You will learn about something that is becoming much more prevalent in day-to-day operations than you can think of,” he said. “Organizations are finding that they had silos of data within companies, and they had never been able to bring those silos together,” he explained. “Are we doing everything the right way? We are going to look at how to do business, how to provide customers with the absolute best service and maximize sales potential.”
Fletcher, who also founded Montana Associated Technology Roundtables, said that one of the most well-known examples of big data occurred when East Coast retailers were looking at what products people wanted to stock up on before big storms rolled through.
“They were going through the data, and you would never guess which one item went up the most in percentage,” he said. “Strawberry Pop Tarts.”
Fletcher said that companies like Amazon and Google use big data every day.
“The technology is available so organizations can use data to understand how they can do things,” he said. “The most desirable job in the next 10 years is going to be in data analysis. It is a much in-demand field. We are really going to be promoting Montana, and making people aware of what opportunities there are.”
Big Data Week schedule
Events are scheduled as follows:
• First-ever Montana Cyber Triathlon: Saturday, May 3, 9 a.m., University of Montana
Kick off Big Data Week in Missoula as high school and college students from across the state converge on the UM campus to solve a digital forensics puzzle, a data analytics puzzle and a hacking puzzle. The first team to crack all three puzzles to find the Cyber Coin wins cash and other prizes. Register and learn more at umt.edu/cyberlab/cyber-triathlon.
• Mayoral proclamation: Monday, May 5, 7 p.m., City Council Chambers.
Missoula Mayor John Engen will proclaim the city’s first-ever Big Data Week May 5-11, and the lineup of events will be announced during the regular City Council meeting at 7 p.m., 140 W. Pine St. Open to the public, 140 W. Pine St.
• Data demonstrations and meet-and-greet: Tuesday, May 6, 5:30- 7:30 p.m., UM School of Business, Room 123
UM’s School of Business will host presentations on data analytics, security and Big Data by faculty and students. UM is expanding its Big Data offerings to students to meet demands from industry to hire students with data analytic skill sets.
• “Big Data for Dummies” brownbag talk: Wednesday, May 7, Noon-1 p.m., MonTEC building on East Broadway
Everything you ever wanted to know about Big Data but were too afraid to ask. Led by experts Eric Franzon of SemanticWeb.com and Russ Fletcher of Inteneo Systems.
• “Big Data Applications in Cybersecurity”: Wednesday, May 7, 5:30-7 p.m., MonTEC
Sherri Davidoff, founder of LMG Security, presents on Big Data and cybersecurity. Attackers use tools such as the Blackhole Exploit Kit to send phishing emails, infect computers, and steal confidential data. Watch a phishing attack in action and see what an infected computer does under the hood. How can you track down the hackers on your network? Davidoff will show samples of Internet traffic and discuss tools and techniques that the pros use to catch even stealthy hackers in action.
• “Predicting Future Health Care Costs,” brownbag lecture Thursday, May 8, noon -1 p.m., MonTEC
Data Smart Solutions’ Jordan Goldsmith presents “Predicting Future Healthcare Cost with Multivariate Statistics.” The effects of comorbidities, polypharmacy and case management on the healthcare costs of an individual. Goldsmith’s presentation will specifically address these topics: Comorbidity, existing simultaneously with and usually independently of another medical condition; polypharmacy, the practice of administering or using multiple medications especially concurrently (as in the treatment of a single disease or of several coexisting conditions); multivariate, having or involving a number of independent mathematical or statistical variables.
• “Big Data Applied: Generating Insights through Big Data Systems,” Thursday, May 8, 5:30-7 p.m., MonTEC
Alex Philp, founder and president of GCS Research, an IBM Champion, and a faculty affiliate at the University of Montana, will provide an overview of the key factors driving the big data phenomena today, including an overview of the people, data and technologies currently at the core of big data revolution as well as some examples of how big data is transforming specific industries, what this means in terms of innovation and how this translates into increased revenue and profitability.
• Closing presentations and reception, Friday, May 9, 4:30-6:30 p.m., MonTEC
“Part I: The Huge Value of ‘Little Data’ ”
Russ Fletcher and Joe Garrett of Inteneo Systems explore how every organization must consider how it will use its internal and external data to survive in an ever increasing data centric world. Learn more at goo.gl/bFbSMV.
“Part II: Semantic Web for Fun and Profit”
SemanticWeb.com expert Eric Franzon will examine how organizations are applying W3C Semantic Web standards to big (and small) data to generate revenue, mitigate risk, and solve problems in new and interesting ways.
Both presentations are designed to offer insights for both technologists and nontechnologists alike.
For a complete schedule of events visit bigdataweek.com/Missoula or email Copple at email@example.com.