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.