Blog Article 01 Sep 2015

Ken Finnegan
Chief Technology Officer - Technology Division
IDA Ireland

For as long as I can remember we have lived in a world of information overload but the spark of user generated content has truly lit the tinder of ‘always on internet’ that is being fanned by the astronomical computing power increases, superfast broadband and insanely cheap storage.

We now live in an era where we store more than we can consume, we download with impunity while surrounded by brain achingly powerful analytical tools. Add to this the ever-growing amount of data that floods our social networks and inboxes on a daily basis, not to mention all the historical data waiting to be exposed and we find ourselves growing fat with information gorging.

Information is a funny thing. We hoard it with the hope we will be able to use it in the future. This was fine when we had a manageable amount of structured information to process. Now we have reached the stage where not only do we have problems organising information, we struggle to even remember and appreciate what information we have available at our fingertips. Our ability to put any shape on it is also limited, let alone to extract high value intelligence from it.
Enter the ring - the rise of Predictive Analytics and its emergence from the worlds of mathematics and physics into the world of online data and intelligence. The unprecedented availability and scale of open data and the vast number crunching power of cloud computing has now led to marriages of industry analysts, software engineers, user design specialists and mathematical modellers.  All of these combined means we are now in an era where we cannot alone make sense of the world surrounding us but rather must harness the talents of diverse teams to help us make better decisions.

Big data can solve big problems, through the gathering/structuring/updating of (large and small) data sets, the extraction of trends and insights with advanced algorithms and the interpretation of this information. Where Predictive Analytics really shines is in its ability to project future outcomes by the interrogation of this information. (Some additional Predictive Analysis line needed here)  Human intuition and gut instinct is still hugely important but the allocation of intense data crunching and processing to the world of silicon and software frees us to see and act on megatrends that have big implications for business, life and society.

Physicists who used to spend their time examining data to understand the nature of physical phenomena and natural processes are using those skills to examine data on everything from customer engagement, to politics, financial planning, health optimization, curing disease, risk analysis and trend analysis for prediction.

For many companies the sheer volume and perceived complexity of the solutions means that they frequently only utilise 5% of the available data.  In a world where we now compete based on fast paced insights this is akin to wasting 95% of a company’s resources and this is a luxury no one can afford. The commonly held view that big data and predictive analytics is only for large organisation is misguided and the biggest jump is frequently an acceptance and understanding of the latent data that lies within an organisation.

Global corporations have strong confidence in Ireland as a strategic location to support new data analytics projects, as evident by recent investments and activity from companies such as Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics, EMC, SAP, Fujitsu, IBM, Accenture, Qualtrics, Quantcast, HP, etc.

Big Data is a strategic focus for the Irish Government and IDA Ireland, and is a priority for development and support. In supporting the sector, the Government is currently investing heavily in data analytics through, for example, the establishment of new dedicated data analytics research centres such as INSIGHT (one of the largest Data Analytics Research centres in Europe) and CeADAR, and the introduction of new tailored data analytics courses at university and institute of technology level.

The democratisation and demystification of data analysis is one of the aims of the Predict Conference in the RDS on September 15-17th  that brings together the best minds in the worlds of predictive analytics to share how data can enhance better decision making.

"The Global Leadership Institute at Boston College is proud to partner with Predict because we believe that Predict will help Dublin become a world leader and European center for excellence in the use of data driven strategy and decision making” according to Robert Mauro, Director at the Global leadership Institute, one of Predict’s major partners. He adds “The GLI and Boston College are excited about the possibility of being at the center for data driven decision making in Europe with Predict. Our professional programs have always focused on excellence and leadership for strategic thinkers; and are pleased to work with Predict to build an expertise as a leader in data analysis for excellence in leadership and strategy."

Founder of Predict, Cronan McNamara, believes Data is as important globally in the 21st century as Oil was in the 20th, with the refinement of both unlocking true competitive advantage. Predict is where Business Leaders, Analysts and Data Scientists will come together to demonstrate how predictive analytics is already  “oiling the cogs” in better decision making.

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