The math behind Big Data

Big Data is a big issue, especially when the amount of data available to us is larger than ever before. To delve into this topic the 3TU Applied Mathematics Institute (3TU.A

MI) organised a meeting on Mathematics and Big Data, in conjunction with the Netherlands Institute for Research on ICT (NIRICT). It was held in the TU Delft Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science.

The intent of the meeting, held April 8, was to discuss the challenges and opportunities Big Data presents, as well as how to extract the most sensible information using hardware, software and mathematics. There were diverse attendees from both universities and industry, representing different disciplines. The annual meetings organised by 3TU.AMI each touch on a different sector of their research. According to Dr. Alessandro di Bucchianico, one of the coordinators of big data research at 3TU.AMI from the Eindhoven University of Technology, the meeting was focused on this sector due primarily to the fact it is such a ‘hot topic’. His colleague Dr. Nelly Litvak from the University of Twente added that many different disciplines are taking initiative in big data and this meeting was an opportunity to make mathematics’ contributions heard.

Though the event centred on mathematics and ICT, the coordinators were keen to emphasise the broad and interdisciplinary nature of Big Data which was reflected in the keynote speakers, from mathematicians and computer scientists to physicists. Particularly interesting was the presentation ‘Ice Sheets and Climate: from hindcast to forecast’ by Dr. Michiel van den Broeke, professor of physics at the University of Utrecht, investigating how to obtain data by looking at the past which can reliably project the melting of ice sheets. There was also a presentation by Prabhakar Raghavan, Vice-President of Engineering at Google, looking at how to mathematically model the influence of recommendation systems on the market. The presentations were followed by a talk and discussion around the Dutch COMMIT2DATA initiative.

Litvak emphasised the importance of knowledge from all different fields when tackling how to process Big Data, telling Delta that “perhaps new methods will appear with a synergy of insights from different fields, because it [Big Data] is genuinely interdisciplinary”.

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