A Look at Today’s White House Big Data Event

March 30, 2012

Today, the White House demonstrated their support for Big Data in a huge way. Federal agencies have committed over $200M to big data initiatives in the future. Between the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, Department of Defense, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Energy, and United States Geological Survey there are multiple opportunities for big data solutions today.

The NSF and NIH are teaming together to “advance the core scientific and technological means of managing, analyzing, visualizing, and extracting useful information from large and diverse data sets.” NIH is looking to find ways to use big data to attack the problems they face.

The DoD is “placing a big bet on big data,” they are investing over $200M annually. The DoD is looking for big data to help them create more and better autonomous systems. Additionally, they are looking to see some value add from big data to provide force multipliers for intelligence operatives and warfighters.

DARPA is beginning work on the XDATA program, which is looking for capabilities that allow analysts to sift through the monumental amount of global data to find relevant and timely data to their missions. Their central challenges include the following;

  • Developing scalable algorithms for processing imperfect data in distributed data stores; and
  • Creating effective human-computer interaction tools for facilitating rapidly customizable visual reasoning for diverse missions.

The NIH is teaming with the National Human Genome Research Institute to apply big data principles to human genome research. They are working in tandem with the Amazon Web Services cloud to offer human genome data to any authenticated user, in any location.

The DoE is funding the Scalable Data Management, Analysis and Visualization Institute. Via their various national laboratories (as well expansive relationships with academia and private firms) they are uniquely positioned to apply big data analytics to one of the largest challenges of today: next generation critical infrastructure. Bringing our critical infrastructure into the 21st century is imperative to the efficacy of our critical infrastructure in the face of the myriad cyber challenges.

The USGS is striving to wield big data solutions against the mountains of data they collect. Most of their analysis is focused at the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis. They collect enormous amounts of geological data, and sorting and sense making is not easy. Applying big data solutions to the wealth of data they collect can help provide better answers to geological questions.

The commitment to big data from the executive branch is immensely important, and should foster increased attention to big data capabilities throughout government. We have long been a proponent of applying big data solutions to government problems, and welcome this progress.