IIT Big Data Analytics Tech Forum 2016: The Essentials

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Big Data, a hot topic that has been generating a lot of interest in the global IT industry. From retail and banking to providing analysis for election campaigns, big data has indeed taken prominence today. Even in Sri Lanka we see sparks of interest in the subject. On the 6th of December, we witnessed IIT Big Data Analytics Tech Forum 2016 take place at the BMICH. Here’s a rundown of what happened.

IIT Big Data
(Image Credits: Avishka Seneviratne)

Recommender Systems 101

First up on stage was Nirmalie Weeratunge, Professor of Computer Science at Robert Gordon University. Pr. Weeratunge took on the topic of Data Driven Recommender Systems. So what are recommender systems exactly? According to Pr. Weeratunge, this simply refers to systems that make predictions about user ratings/preferences about products. She also talked about what social recommender systems are, touching on some of the projects she herself is involved with. From intelligent healthcare recommenders, to digital customer behavior analysis, recommender systems aim to provide a high level overview on the applications of big data. Adding on, Pr. Weeratunge went on to share a few interesting statistics with regards to online electronic purchases. Did you know that 57% of consumers read online reviews prior to purchasing electronics? And about 40% online consumers indicate they would not even buy electronics without consulting online reviews?

IIT Big Data
(Image Credits: Avishka Seneviratne)

Data Driven Optimization

Following up on Nirmalie Weeratunge’s session was Pr. John McCall, from the Smart Data Technologies Centre at Robert Gordon University. His session revolved around Data Driven Optimization, with an emphasis on naturally inspired algorithms. Here, Pr. McCall took on a more practical approach, citing a Hydrocarbon Allocation production facility and a truck control system as case studies. He explained how at most times, big data can make rigorous and at times, even outdated processes much easier with the help of data driven optimization strategies.

IIT Big Data
(Image Credits: Avishka Seneviratne)

IIT Big Data: Question Time!

Soon after John McCall’s presentation, we moved on to the final segment of the evening. It was time for questions for the 2 speakers. As the panel opened up we saw quite a few hands go up with enthusiasm. During the Q&A session, Pr. Weeratunge talked about extracting data with regards to recommender systems and big data, in her Amazon product reviews example. Here, a question was raised on how the accuracy of data extraction is determined. Why? Because not all reviews will include proper structured sentences and sometimes even spelling mistakes and sarcastic comments are included in these extractions. So what’s the solution? According to Pr. Weeratunge it comes down to average and approximation.

Another interesting question was raised from the audience. This time it was for John McCall. Referring to the professor’s earlier session, Pr. McCall was asked what sort of skills are exactly needed to carry on the big data applications and whether its possible for a single person to handle it. Pr. McCall answered with a resounding no. Why not? According to John McCall, a team would always work better, for the simple reason that you tend to pick up different aspects of the same problem.

IIT Big Data
(Image Credits: Avishka Seneviratne)

As the clock struck 9.30 PM, it was time for us to depart. And so, there you have it folks. Thus marks the end of IIT Big Data Analytics Tech Forum 2016.

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