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Oec. Magazin 2

The work involves multiple fields, all gene- rating vast quantities of data, which need to be processed and analysed. «This is what brings our two areas together and makes us complemen- tary. We’re looking at extraordinarily complex networks», elaborates Bernstein. «It’s no longer a question of using or not using big data. That’s already essential to solving many of the huge questions facing society. The issue isn’t big data: yes or no. It’s: how do we process; what do we collect; who owns the data; who’s in control?» Algesheimer explains. Before plunging into detail, step back a se- cond and consider how big data is already ha- ving a profound impact on our lives. «Big data have become a torrent flowing into every area of the global economy», wrote McKinsey, the ma- nagement consultancy, in a seminal May 2011 re- port. «There is strong evidence that big data can play a significant economic role to the benefit not only of private commerce, but also of national economies and their citizens.» «Big data is about the four Vs», says Bernstein. «High volume, high velocity, high variety and high veracity. But it’s not just one thing that’s changed.» Advances in computer power, storage, methodology and assessment have all come to- gether to make possible a type of analysis that was inconceivable previously and can be used to optimise decision making. Affecting our lives today There are countless examples today of big data at work, from consumer market research to deep science. Take healthcare: steadily improved data quality and analytical skills optimise treatment options. In the current Ebola epidemic, for ex- ample, dozens of network scientists are working to hinder the diffusion of the virus by analysing spread patterns, examining data from survivors’ blood, and countless other variables. «A lot of this has been done before. But what’s new is the scale and diversity of the data you can integ- rate», note the professors. Consumer industries are another obvious user of big data on a daily basis. Carmakers, for ex- ample, are just one of many consumer orientated companies trawling constantly through social media and other sources to «listen into» what customers are saying. Their goal is not just to identify gripes and technical glitches before they get out of hand, but to be ahead of the curve in spotting future consumer trends. «There’s inten- se monitoring of digital media and networks», says Algesheimer. «Consumer behaviour track- ing has become big business.» Travel and tourism are two other, related, areas where big data is making ever bigger inroads. Airlines yield management systems, whereby seat prices for a given flight alter based on de- mand, have been around for years now. But as the computing power and predictive algorithms behind them has grown and become more sophi- sticated, «what’s new is the degree of detail you can access», notes Algesheimer. It’s now possible, for example, for airlines to identify their most profitable customers, and tailor services specifi- cally to their needs. That means not just serving «The issue isn’t big data: yes or no. It’s: how do we process; what do we collect; who owns the data; who’s in control?» Prof. Abraham Bernstein, Ph.D. Abraham Bernstein, Professor of Informatics and Vice Chair of the Department of Informatics 14 Oec. Dezember 2014 Fokus