Fujitsu brought their 2014 World Tour to the Convention Centre in Dublin last week. Professor Barry Smyth, CEO of the Insight Research Centre for Data Analytics, gave a talk entitled From Small Sensors to Big Data: The data driven business.
Our modern mobile devices, explains Barry, are sensor platforms, contributing to the collection of 1 exabyte (=1 million terabytes) every 6 hours. The opportunities this presents are huge: for example, Microsoft researchers have gained valuable insights into drug interaction based on Bing search data.
Big Data technology is well developed, he says, and the potential benefits are well recognised. The big questions right now are ethical ones. Referring to Facebook’s recent experiment, he points out that tests on human subjects require informed consent. That’s not quite the same thing as agreeing to a site’s Terms and Conditions, he says.
We don’t want to not try new things, because there are such great benefits to society … I think the healthcare profession stands to benefit hugely from this. We wouldn’t want to stifle innovation that could help people to live safer, healthier, fairer lives. At the same time we do need to be careful …”