The Malta Independent 14 July 2024, Sunday
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Updated (5): Big Data Summit: how technology today can affect tomorrow's future

Kevin Schembri Orland Wednesday, 22 June 2016, 09:30 Last update: about 9 years ago

Charles Radclyffe, a serial entrepreneur who has focused his career on solving tough technology challenges for some of the world's largest organisations, spoke about data philosophy and mentioned how technology is slowly changing the world and could cause a wealth distribution imbalance.

The Big Data Summit (Malta) is the first event of its kind to be held in Malta aimed at bringing together an international group of business leaders, policy makers and technology leaders to discuss the future of the global economy and how big data and advanced analytics is already transforming the business world as we know it.

This major event brings together thought leaders from some of the key players in Big Data today including Tableau, Qlik , Microsoft, Zendesk and Salesforce as  well as accomplished independent international speakers from a variety of industries , including professional services, IT, Telco, iGaming, Academia as well as areas where some of the major breakthroughs are being made like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

The Malta Independent is the official media partner

Mr Radclyffe spoke about data philosophy and data ethics. He said that the consequence of what we are doing through technology today will have the furthest reaching impact to date. He gave an example of early day mobile phones, and compared them to modern phones. "Looking back 20 years, the concept of a phone crashing was unthinkable, yet today its the norm".

"If I were to buy an old fashioned watch, it would just work. With a smart watch, you need to synchronize it to your apple account and all that, so they don't perform what they are meant to do right out of the box".

He spoke about data ethics, and mentioned that insurance companies are investing in machine learning. "However I don't feel comfortable with machines collating the right thing to do, and comparing it with the cost of taking action".

Mr Radclyffe spoke about wealth distribution problems through technology, and gave the example of UBER. UBER, he said, essentially bypasses the taxi driver, who in turn would therefore pay less income tax etc, and this would become a problem.

"A lot of us might have a lot of free time in the future. Imagine the world of the future where work doesn't define you, how would you find your purpose?"

Prominent ICT business executive Pierre Mallia delivered the welcome address. He said that the ability to process a stream of unstructured information has, until now, been reserved for a small number of human beings. Computers now, however, are able to process data quickly and that the processing of data been used in medicine, politics and business.

"We hope today will be the beginning of the debate, on how to prepare the next generation for the brave new world of big data".

Eugene Piric and Michal Marusan from Microsoft spoke about Microsoft's view and advantage of Hybrid Cloud. Mr. Piric is responsible for leading a team of technical and solutions sales professionals responsible for business development and scaling of Microsoft’s new and emerging technologies in the areas of Cloud, Big Data, Internet of Things, Enable Application Innovation and Media Services. Michal Marusan’s background lies in data warehousing and business intelligence on massively parallel database engines. For the last five years he has been working on numerous Big Data and Advanced Analytics projects with different customers mainly from Telco, Banking and Transportation industries.

Mr Piric said he is at the forefront of new innovation and technology. “We live in a world of science fiction,” he said. “There are billions of mobile devices connected”. Turning to the privacy of data he said that a lot can be done regarding the ethics of technology.

First we must understand the amount of data out there. He said that artificial neural-networks are becoming very useful due to the amount of data now available for these networks to learn from. In addition, advancements in mathematical algorithms have also helped. “Through analysis, this data could better business outcomes etc, he said”.

In order to bring the computing power to run vast amounts of data, in the past it would have required lots of hardware, but the cloud allows one to conduct a project, or experiment very quickly”.

He spoke about predictive analysis of data, mentioning its uses in product placement for example. “The cloud allows you to do things without overly investing in the first phases”.

Mr Marusan delivered a visual presentation, and explained how technology could in fact, through algorithms describe what is going on in a video, or an image.

Wilfried Grommen serves as Hewlett Packard’s Chief Technology Officer for the Public Sector in EMEA. Grommen has 24 years of experience in the IT industry. In his previous position, he served as Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer for Central and Eastern Europe, focusing primarily on technology policy (interoperability, innovation, security). Wilfried shared his insights on Big Data, Smart Vehicles and Transportation.

Mr Grommen spoke about how big data could change the mobility industry. He spoke about car companies purchasing shares in mobility companies, like UBER etc. The millennium generation don't want to own cars, but want to utilise cars, he said.

He spoke about connected cars and how data could be used to inform drivers about speed limits, weather conditions on roads etc.

Mr Grommen discussed smart transport and public safety. “What it comes down to is correlating information from different sources. When combining these sources you can provide an end to end suggested transport service. Such information would include traffic congestion information, weather conditions etc. depositors of this data could include traffic light controllers, weather services, cameras etc”.

Daniela Castillo's background lies in digital marketing and online customer acquisition, managing multiple digital channels, including affiliates, PPC, SEO and digital media. She thrives on marketing insights and analytics to increase customer engagement and loyalty and to continually optimise marketing performance. Daniela is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Malta, with published studies on digital marketing.

We are seeing an exponential growth in data, and 90% of the world's data was created in the past 2 years. A generation ago, there was access to one or two newspapers, maybe one or two TV channels, yet today data is collected from everything. Big data can be scary for marketers, sifting through that data can be overwhelming. We are constantly asked to provide return on investment on marketing strategies, etc”.

Studies show that marketers believe in the use of big data. If we need to move forward we must dive right in. Its about having access to the right data and not just having access to large amounts of data, which will bring success to your marketing programme”. As an example, she said that traditionally, audiences were divided up by age, gender etc, through market segmentation. “There is one problem with this however, that marketers can only divide these groups up to a certain extent. Big data allows the elimination of segmentation though marketing powered by big data, making marketing more personal on a 1to1 basis. It will provide information as to what people are buying online, what they are sharing online etc, thus allowing us to build better profiles as the audience develops”.

She gave an example of a US credit scoring company. “They wanted to target the millions of US citizens who didn't have access to quick credit. They analysed the current credit score mechanisms and built their own model that took a number of factors into consideration, one of which for example, was whether they had a prepaid contract and whether they read terms and conditions or not. Utilising these factors and others, they came up with a niche segment of people who would have low credit scores, but a high likelihood of making payments. Their business was very successful and they discovered a new niche market”.

Benjamin Carlotti holds a Masters in Sport Finance (Georgetown University). He was a financial consultant for three years, as well as a shareholder of a mobile gaming company. Benjamin has been following the evolution of the Fantasy Sports industry in the USA and has anticipated its rise in the European market. He therefore launched three years ago. He regularly speaks at conferences, and contributes to various BtoB publications.

How can anyone predict the outcome of a football match?” He asked. “The answer is through using big data. I'm not talking about the exact score, its about who beats whome. Big data is changing the sports industry”.

He explained that football teams, including the likes of Manchester City, have teams of data statisticians and analysts working for them, analysing players, results etc.

In the USA, all NFL players wear sensors in their shoulder pads, measuring heart rates etc. in the NBA they have cameras around the court measuring player performance etc.

Turning to online gambling, “people tend to forget the that they are playing against the operator. Its great when the operator gives you access to data, but just imagine what kind of data the operator has access too”.

Through the fantasy football platform, if for example Messi scores, that data is instantly transferred to the platform and turned into points. The scoring system however was only using 5-15 stats, however after a large analysis of over five years of back-data, this was bumped up to 70 stats, and data is even collected from missed tackles”.

Dr Abdalla Kablan is an entrepreneur, and financial data analytics expert. He specialises in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the design of complex systems. He is also the Founder of Hippo Data, a Fintech Startup. He spoke about how machine learning is revolusionising the financial services sector.

After more than 60 years from the inception of artificial intelligence, it is now at the forefront of mainstream media. It is said that AI will result in the loss of jobs. AI is flipping the financial services industry on its head, he said. “For many years, innovation in this industry occurred within the sector itself, but recently, technology is coming from outside.

Most problems in the financial industry stem from the fact that finance was meant to be a science, yet it fell victim to human interpretation. We need to bring science back into finance, and the best way is to aid it through technology, while providing faster, cheaper, better, smarter products”.

Even though the human brain is the most sophisticated computer, it did not improve over the past 100 years, yet the world around is constantly changing, and it is impossible for the human brain to keep track of all the data out there, including financial fluctuations and market movements. With all the new systems, the time will come when no investment manager would be able to beat a computer”.

He explained that people use AI all the time, through the google search engine for example which will finish a sentence for you, or google translate etc.

He spoke about current uses of AI through in the sector. “The financial services sector already use something called robo advisers, which can look at your spending history and advise portfolio changes which would be preferential for the client, whereas portfolios by human advisors would only be updated once a quarter or so/ Portfolios with robo advisers would be constantly updated”.

AI in finance will result in a job transformation, not job loss, he explained.

A group discussion then took place, and Mr Radclyffe and Mr Grommen were asked about the use of big data in the public sector.

Radclyffe said that politicians make policy, and the question therefore is how to use data to bring that across? “It would probably have to focus on understanding citizens better”..

The danger comes in where political parties utilise data science to direct their own policies towards popular policy, and the danger here is that it could go around the democratic process”.

If you sign up to a gmail account, you know your data will be mined and in return is a free email service. You don't have a choice as to the data-mining which would follow. So trading data perceived not to be valuable for services is the norm for the newer generations. Those of us not comfortable with privacy etc are different”.

Grommen spoke about the EU PNR Directive, and said that in this context, people are contributing data when they travel in return for better security. “The function of the PNR is to correlate data from different sources, however under a very strict framework”.

Alexandru Ursu, a sales expert with a strong experience with some of the world’s largest technology solution and cloud platform providers, Alex is all about helping businesses find, win and keep customers and thus grow their business.

He is currently helping customers in Malta in a journey to success – and when he’s not doing that he’s having a good time playing the piano or hiking

The main goal of companies is to get more customers, and big data is becoming more of a science in this regard.

Right now, the customers could have all the information on a product, before even approaching a sales person.

Customers today create their own paths. “If a customer wants a product, he can go and check prices online, and choose their channels of obtaining that product”.

Customers have the power, and the sales industry needs to adapt. We have all this information and technology available including laptops, smart phones etc, which are all connected. You can get information from anywhere. Customers no longer need to go to people to get information, thus meaning that sales persons need to provide a more personal approach.

"Even though 90% of all data was generated over the past two years, less than 1% of this data has been processed", he said. "Almost 80% of customers feel the companies reaching out to them are failing to understand them, and this is because they do not have the right data in hand". 

Photos by Jonathan Borg.



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