Exploring Britain’s Big Data heartbeat


In London’s City Hall, business leaders came together at WANDisco’s Big Data breakfast to discuss Britain’s Big Data heartbeat.

The main focus of the events speakers was how to use Big Data to make real world applications – particularly in the UK.

The public sector using Big Data, and the barriers it faces, was a big talking point for a number of the speakers, with many conveying a need to focus on producing tangible results.

Eddie Copeland, Head of Tech Policy Unit, Policy Exchange, expressed a need for there to be an Office of Data Responsibility, along with a code of responsible analytics.

SAP’s Kevin Kimber spoke of simplifying data so that you can simplify informed decision making. However, he stopped short of expressing an opinion on who should run it.

Charlotte Holloway from Tech UK spoke of the need for the Government to use Big Data to solve problems, but said that they needed to be ‘more timely and relevant’. However, if the Government are to work with the private sector, or use private sector data, then they will need to convince them as to why they should share, according to Kimber, Managing Director of Cloud, SAP UK and Ireland.

While the importance of using data has been on everybody’s lips, Dai Clegg, Director of marketing at the Big Data Partnership was keen to stress that the key factors that must be considered is the communication between business and IT, as well as the Data Scientist skills gap. The need for skilled, sector specific Data Scientists that understand the business they are working in will be vital in using Big Data effectively.

The problem for the public sector is that people cannot choose not to use services provided by the Government, people cannot opt out of services as they can with the private sector. For example the NHS, which has been actively using Big Data to make savings in recent years.

Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information spoke about the need to use Big Data in order to provide transparency of services and provide an indication on how they are performing.

According to Kelsey, the NHS has major gaps in their Big Data, for example not knowing how many patients are currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment in the UK. Kelsey went on to say that the NHS produces vast amounts of Big Data, but it doesn’t have the resources to deal with it all, for example, the use of a molecular diagnostic machine is creating more data than the Hadron collider.

With a focus on why the public sector isn’t producing tangible results with Big Data, Michael Ibbitson from Gatwick airport detailed how the airport is a leading example of how it can be done in the UK within the transport sector.

Ibbitson stated that Gatwick has been using Big Data to implement efficiencies such as improving the amount of passengers through security, from 165 per hour to 600 per hour, and increasing the productivity of the runway. Additionally the airport has invited third party organisations, including consumer services, to input retail data. With this, the airport could see that by improving check-in, people would spend more.

We’ve recently seen Uber agree to share its transport data with the city of Boston in a move designed to improve infrastructure. Anonymising the data has eased privacy concerns and this kind of data sharing may contribute to the development of the ‘Smart City’ in the future.

Eddie Copeland, Head of Tech Policy Unit, Policy Exchange used New York as the example to follow for the UK. New York has been using Big Data to deal with the 20,000 complaints they receive yearly about illegally divided buildings, with data analytics they have managed to increase the success of complaint cases from 8% to 70%. This is a prime example of how to get the public on side with the use of Big Data in a public sphere, Copeland said: "Save lives, stop fires."

New York has been able to use this data to be able to predict areas that have a high risk of fire and health hazards which builds public trust. This should certainly be seen as an example to the UK and how Big Data can be implemented to the benefit of the public and how to get the public onside.

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