In space, no one can hear you scream ‘big data’. There’s no air — you wouldn’t be able to summon a breath to do it. Just ask the guys at NASA. They know about things like this. They also know a lot about big data, and one NASA employee, Nicholas Skytland, has a particular interest in it.
Nicholas works at NASA’s Open Innovation Program and his role as program manager means that he has to handle many issues relating to big data on a daily basis. Oh, and just to keep things interesting (as if that weren’t enough!), he also trains astronauts and plots moon missions. In an interview given ahead of ZDNet’s TechLines panel, “Finding the Big Data Signals,” Nicholas talked about his current perception of big data, how it is employed within his own organisation and how it might change the nature of IT and business in the future.
The Open Innovation Program has been deeply involved with various space missions over the years, including the training of astronauts and the gathering of NASA’s big data from outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. It has also been important because of its advisory role within the US government, acting as a barometer for the big data industry and establishing how this technology can best be deployed in the public sector. Nicholas believes that big data is arguably a key point on the trajectory of modern IT and will play a defining role in how technology will develop and be harnessed over the coming years. And for what it’s worth, I agree with him completely. Nicholas sees it as a tool for tackling problems that have so far remained without a solution. However, he admits, there will be a great degree of complexity involved in its application. This complexity exists not only in the methods by which data is captured and analysed, but also in how the results are put into practice and visualised — specifically in a way that will have ramifications outside of purely academic work.
The freezing void of space stretches out above us when we glance at the night sky. Humanity has been attempting to plumb its depths and learn its secrets for millennia.
Of course, with modern technology we are able to do more than ever before and the Deep Space Network, which is a global organisation that records data from various space missions, has been collecting vast amounts of information in order to help expand our understanding of the great unknown.
As you might imagine, the problem faced by this network is that the amount of data it has to deal with is becoming increasingly vast and scientists at NASA have been warning about an eventual overload for over half a decade.
All of the congestion is caused by the information drawn from 13 antennas arrayed at locations across the globe which are used to receive information beamed back to Earth by various space probes that are millions of miles away.
While it is relatively simple to store large amounts of data, even though it is expensive, the problems come when you need to analyse it all and make sure that it is kept in a very safe, secure location.
The solution to all of these problems has been proposed by Ouliang Chang, who is a postgraduate student at the University of Southern California in the US. He believes that a supercomputer should be built on the Moon, allowing for the storage and big data analysis of all the information which is currently handled terrestrially by the Deep Space Network.
The costs and logistics of building a data centre on the Moon are quite staggering, as you might imagine. Getting 450 grams of equipment out of the Earth’s atmosphere and taking it to our closest orbiting body costs £31,000, so Chang believes that the total cost of the project would be anywhere from £6 billion to £12 billion or more. You would also need to factor in the additional expense of setting up a separate base on the Moon, since the data centre could not exist in isolation.
Will there be a data centre on the moon one day?
Data scientists and business analysts: are they one and the same, or are they worlds apart? If the analogy that a data scientist is a business analyst working in California is to be believed, then the positions are only separated by a zeitgeist job title. But in reality, this isn’t the case: the two roles have very different parts to play in the ever-evolving landscape of big data. While data scientists are (and will continue to be) eagerly sought after in an attempt to plug a gaping hole in the employment market, business analysts are already there — on the ground, working with the data harvested by their enterprises. More and more as the industry progresses forward, these business analysts will be called on to contextualise that data, providing valuable business and industry insights.
Big data is sweeping into every part of the business world. According to the IDC’s Digital Universe Study, the amount of information managed by enterprise centres will grow by 50 times in this decade alone. And, as big data pervades the business world, traditional models will change to incorporate it and traditional job roles will change as part of a cultural disruption. The smart business analysts – those who wish to be change agents and seen as integral to their business and industry – will be at the forefront of this shift. So, with that in mind, we’ve put together a primer for business analysts — something that you can cut-out-and-keep, or pass on to your colleagues. Open up the primer below.
Are you looking for big data events and news? Then you’ve come to the right place. This week we’ve got details of more big data conferences and events taking place all across Europe, breaking stories about the role of big data in predicting crime, helping victims of Hurricane Sandy, and the legal and architectural challenges the industry faces, and all the lastest visualisations from The Human Face of Big Data campaign. We’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this, so leave us a comment at the bottom of the page.
Read on for the most recent news stories to come out of the world of big data. This week we take a look at all the latest events, a novel visualisation from Amsterdam Schiphol airport, NASA’s most recent big data competition and the ways big data can help to improve daily life in the countries with serious mosquito problems. Take a look now for this news and more.