Big potential in big data


  • News
  • Monday, 17 Aug 2015

(From left) Teh, Morrison, Brobst and Ng.

Big data analytics, or accurate analysis of huge volumes of information, may be the next big thing to spur innovation and entrepreneurial growth, suggests a roundtable discussion. LIM WING HOOI reports.

THE next big thing for startups may very well be the availability of data for them to design their applications or software around, according to a roundtable discussion entitled “Nation Development with Big Data Analytics”.

Organised on Aug 6 by US-listed Teradata Corporation, which sells analytic data platforms, marketing applications and related services, the talk at Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur, featured three panellist from the data industry and was moderated by Craig Morrison, country manager of Teradata Malaysia.

Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) inovation capital division director Dr Karl Ng said governments would not be able solve every problem or needs that its citizens face, hence the need to allow entrepreneurs to have access to data and to come out with innovative solutions.

Big data usually includes data sets which are beyond the ability of conventional software tools to capture, manage or process within a tolerable time period due to their variations, volume and complexity.

These data come from multiple sources and various forms, from conventional statistics to social media networks.

“Imagine how entrepreneurs could make use of two very different data sets involving weather and public transportation,” Ng said.

He said last year Malaysia had about 125 data sets, but this year, the number had increased to 350 sets of data, ranging from the list of halal restaurant to various trade statistics.

“We have a partnership with UK-based Open Data Institute, which also advises the UK government on their open data policies,” he said.

Elaborating, he said availability of such data had spurred innovation in countries such as the US, the UK and others.

“In the UK alone, from just data sets involving the public transportation sector, such as train arrival time, over 400 applications for smartphones were created, revolving around helping consumers – from deciding on the nearest restaurant to eat before the next train arrives to helping them decide on the most efficient public transport to take to arrive to their destination,” said Ng.

He added that there was more to be done, and more data sets would need to be made available to promote innovation, particularly relating to service delivery in the public sector.

“We are also holding competitions for the software and application developers community to create solutions based on these data,” he said, saying that some applications that might be useful would be things like air pollution index monitor or dengue outbreak-related applications could help give the public the latest information that mattered to their areas.

Echoing this, Morrison said Malaysians experienced rainy weather and haze, and this meant that product owners could, with the help with these sets of data, possibly predict the products that would be in demand by their customers when such conditions occur. Teradata Corporation chief technology officer Stephen Brobst added that such data acted as “fuel for startups.”

“Startup can build their business model around these data. (Apart from promoting) transparency, which is important, it also helps startups to flourish in the eco-system,” Stephen said.

Some of the data, which involves traffic flows, law enforcement to education, are left unused in cabinets. But should they be released to the public, Stephen said, these data could help startups build applications that could be used to navigate streets more effectively or assist in making decisions on house purchase by pointing them to areas with lower crime rate or better schools for their children.

“(At the same time) you can bring people to work together to reduce the crime rate and (when it comes to education), the availability of (information related to performance of schools) may lead to schools that do not perform being closed down and replaced by private schools which gives better education,” Stephen said.

In addition, he emphasised that people should not focus on the amount of data they have but rather making sense of them.

“You need to understand the behaviour rather that the transactions themselves,” he said.

Another panellist, Fusionex Corporation Sdn Bhd managing director Ivan Teh said from his experience, six out of 10 people that he interacted with were looking at how they might be able to get more insight via big data.

“They are more factual and scientific today. They are no longer content with their usual quarterly reports,” Teh said.

Most of the companies rely on customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) or excel spreadsheets, all of which Teh characterised as “produced in silos.”

“When C-level executives ask why sales are dropping, there are insights to be gleaned from, say, the social media where customer sentiments are shared. This could be useful when added to the systems and, after analysis, would be able to provide better insight,” he concluded.

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