Cyber Summit 2012: Big Data, Small Presentations and Rock and Roll

Last week Cyber Summit 2012: Leading the Way in the Age of Big Data took place in Banff (October 1-3).

Last week Cyber Summit 2012: Leading the Way in the Age of Big Data took place in Banff (October 1-3). This annual event is a gathering of visionaries, executives, managers and awesome data scientist nerds shaping the future of big data analytics. This year’s presentations addressed a broad range of topics from the economic and social impact of big datainsight into human behaviour, technical aspects of trolling, managing and securing big data, role of data integration, cloud and earth stewardships, to data driven agriculture. The meeting was heavily tweeted with a total of 525 tweets posted during the three day event. In the true spirit of data analytics the twitter data from the summit has been analyzed by your truly.

During the summit a few key themes emerged, e.g. the central role role science and research plays in big data. Full genome sequencing is rapidly reaching the stage where, in Andrew Hessel‘s words, “you can charge it to your credit card” and get your own personal genome sequence in an afternoon. When The Square Kilometre Array, a global project to design and construct a next generation international radio telescope 100 times larger than our most powerful existing radio telescope array, is operational it will be churning out data at the mind-boggling rate of several Petabits (1015) per second. Ironically this makes the 400 million tweets posted each day look like mere spare change (but very interesting spare change mind you). Of course not all data is useful, or as Stephen King (not that Stephen King) pointed out, “most data is garbage” so the real challenge is of course to sift through the “dirt” to find the data nuggets that can give you insight.

One particularly interesting thread that emerged over the course of the summit was the idea that broadband has reached a stage where it has become a public utility and as such should be made available for free, similarly to sidewalks being free to walk on. Unfortunately Canada is in the non-enviable position of having some of the most expensive wireless and wired services in the world (as well as slowest) while at the same time showcasing a remarkably forward-thinking free (as in free hugs) internet service in the City of Fredricton. The Mayor, Bradley Woodside, himself attended the summit and shared his city’s remarkable story. Stephen Mendel, my own mayor, should really talk to Woodside.

In addition to the keynotes, plenary and discussion sessions, this year one session was offered for PechaKucha (ペチャクチャ) presentations, i.e. very short (20 slides x 20 seconds per slide = 6 minutes and 40 seconds) and focused Japanese-inspired drag-race style talks. Several of the talks have been posted at Cybera’s official YouTube channel. And, yes that is Jay, as in Jay Ingram. Jay attended the summit and treated everyone to a informative and entertaining talk showrock and roll (with Jay singing and the Cybera ladies dancing), and fiddle playing (who knew).

All in all the summit was a resounding success providing a tantalizing glimpse into the world and minds of big data visionaries. Banff did not disappoint either with appropriate seasonal weather and wildlife.

This is from the blog of MPK Analytics ( In the business of helping clients transforming data into insight through the power of R.