Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Growing Up with Big Data

It was yet another full house at the IC&SR auditorium, where Mr. Anand Rajaram had arrived  to talk about Big Data. A renowned IIT alumni and Senior Vice President, Global E-commerce, Walmart, besides donning many other high profile roles, Mr. Anand Rajaram took the stage with ease and familiarity of an old student. Mr. Anand Rajaram, a recent recipient of the distinguished alumnus award from IIT-Madras, an alumnus of Stanford University, is also the founding partner of Cambrian Ventures. He has worked with Amazon as its Director Of Technology, previously. His talk was pitched on the four generations in the evolution of data driven applications. The first one as he explained was all about collecting, storing and processing private data like payrolls, employee records of an organisation etc. This, he said, was followed by the second generation where businesses tapped into public data that could be collected online. Formulation of Wikipedia and other related websites were products of the second generation of data driven applications. With further advancements, “semi-public” data came into existence in the third generation. Social Networks cropped up in this generation. He stated an example, as to how useful these social networks are in finding product-consumption data across geographies from websites like twitter, facebook etc. This information was used to stock up retail stores accordingly and hence very helpful in market basket analysis. He drove the point better when he quoted Eric Schmidt; “Every two days mankind were creating as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”.  Just like how combining oil and oxygen could fuel a rocket launch, combining private, public and semi-public data , he claims, is set to launch a new generation of endless possibilities. This along with the penetration of smart phones and mobile applications, data is set to provide fodder for many more ideas and concepts. He calls this fourth generation, one of Social Sciences Revolutions. And in this generation we are set to meet “The Big Data”. As data becomes big and bigger at a rapid pace, he advises that data modelling should adopt a “data-rich, model-light” approach, wherein one uses simpler algorithms that can accept frequent changes in volume and nature of data. He concluded on a note that claimed us all to be on the cusp of social sciences revolution, where business possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination.

Padma Priya
Class of 2015

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