This past Wednesday, IBM Corp sponsored a Senate briefing called “Big Data: The New Natural Resource,” which was held in conjunction with an announcement of IBM’s partnership with the Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to expand collaboration on high-performance computing.  The collaboration, which will be referred to as “Deep Computing Solutions,” is a part of LLNL’s High Performance Computing Innovation Center.  For more in-depth information, check out IBM’s news release here.

The briefing opened with a statement from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), in which she praised the United States for the development of the world’s fastest, most efficient supercomputer; a 20-petaflop computer affectionately named “Sequoia,” which currently resides at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).   According to Feinstein, as a result of the United States’ leadership in this area, countries around the world have recognized that an investment in technology yields a significant return, and are attempting to follow suit.

The briefing continued with remarks from David McQueeney, vice president for software at IBM Research, who noted that leaders within the corporate community are ever more aware of “big data” as a significant natural resource, but because the infrastructure is not in place to capture and analyze the data in an efficient manner, most have been unable to effectively use it.

McQueeney used the analogy of a tsunami to describe the current plight of big data – there is a plethora of incoming data, but no one has the capacity to handle it, or translate it into the desired outputs.  He noted, however, that if decision makers can “master the tsunami of data,” there would be a significant increase in the efficiency with which our world works.

In order to more effectively communicate the potential that big data has to change the status quo of decision making, McQueeney used a number of different comparisons.  He contended that in the past, we made decisions based on human intuition, but as we have access to properly analyzed data, we can begin to make decisions based on facts.  He believes that this will change our decision making time from weeks or days to hours or minutes, and will change our operations from being merely efficient to completely optimized.

In addition to the remarks provided by Sen. Feinstein and Mr. McQueeney, the hearing played host to a panel discussion on “How Analytics Technology Creates an Enormous Opportunity for Government.”  The panel was moderated by Dr. Steven Koonin, Director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, and consisted of discussion among the panelists Dr. Steven Ashby (Deputy Director for Science and Technology, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), Shantenu Jha (Associate Director of Research Cyber infrastructure, Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute), and Tony Elder (Deputy Police Chief, Charleston, South Carolina).  Mr. Elder, the only panelist not directly involved in the analytics field was chosen because of the Charleston Police Department’s development of a “fusion center,” which is a groundbreaking way for police officers to acquire relevant data on areas they are patrolling and suspects they are tracking.

 

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