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24 Jul Let’s Talk Big Data

BIG DATA (tag cloud, franais)


By: Ellen Clysdale

On October 29th SWI participated in the YRBiz Series event “Let’s Talk Big Data”, designed to expose local businesses to new ideas, insights, and resources.  A number of speakers from the Ontario Centres of Excellence institutes and programs introduced how the OCE helps connect advanced university research programs with commercialization and Entrepreneurs in the Health Informatics and Computing space.

Topics touched on included the use of Homomorphic Encryption to ensure privacy of merged Big Data health datasets, the expanding sphere of Open Data possibilities, and entrepreneurial success stories such as Thoth Technology’s acquisition and operation of the Algonquin Radio Observatory.

Alithya’s Vice-President Ontario and Western Canada, Nigel Fonseca, explained some of the challenges and opportunities that Big Data presents to small and medium sized businesses.  Data is only useful if it is tagged and analyzed, and only a small subset of “all available data” is rich in meaning and utility.  Modern big data toolsets such as Hadoop allow exploration of the “unknown unknowns” long after a solution has been architected, in contrast to traditional data warehouse designs.

The event closed with a recorded keynote by Dr. Ann Cavoukian, the former privacy commissioner of Ontario.  Dr. Cavoukian introduced Privacy by Design – which emphasizes that customer privacy is not mutually exclusive with functionality or business success, both can be attained as long as it is designed in at the beginning.  She touched on the enormous penalty that modern privacy breaches can inflict on organizations, specifically the 46% drop in Target’s profit margins and the long term damage to their brand.  She contrasted that with the comparatively small investment in design and privacy protection that is required to prevent such breaches, and emphasized that such breaches largely occur due to poor information management by organizations – which she terms “Privacy by Disaster”.