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FCW : November 15, 2012
November 15, 2012 FCW.COM 19 data was used to monitor premature infants for signs of late-onset neonatal sepsis, an infection that is often fatal by the time it is detected via traditional monitoring sys- tems. The program, managed by Carolyn McGregor of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, used IBM InfoSphere Streams software to analyze as many as 16 concurrent streams of physiological data in real time and alert hospital staff to subtle but potentially life-threatening changes. The system, which uses an approach called pre- dictive analytics, runs on little more than three laptop PCs. Law enforcement agencies are also using the com- bination of big data and predictive analytics. Memphis, Tenn., saw a 31 percent drop in violent crime from 2006 to 2011 after the police department launched its Blue CRUSH (Crime Reduction Utilizing Statistical His- tory) pilot program in partnership with the University of Memphis. The program combines data from disparate sources --- surveillance cameras, crime records, even benign datasets such as vehicle registration records --- and uses it to provide of - cers with on-demand information about suspects and victims, as well as the likelihood of crime in any des- ignated area of the city. Blue CRUSH uses IBM s SPSS software. For Olds, it is no surprise that state and local agencies are outpac- ing their federal counterparts when it comes to putting big data to use. "The examples that I ve seen that have shown some results are typi- cally from city and state initiatives," he said. "The sheer amount of fed- eral bureaucracy makes it hard for federal agencies to get all the necessary parties on board to put together a good initiative." Nonetheless, the federal government has been plowing ahead, though often not in the public eye. For instance, many intelligence and defense agencies now rely on senti- ment analysis, yet another big data trend. Sentiment analy- sis mines data, especially social media, to try to predict mass events and uprisings, such as the Arab Spring dem- onstrations, before they unfold. In the past year, the FBI, the CIA and even the Federal Reserve have either published requests for proposals or pursued other means of developing sentiment analysis tools, hoping to tease insights and intelligence out of the unstruc- tured data that now accounts for 85 percent of all available information. The agencies, however, remain mum on their progress. The CIA declined to comment for this article, tell- ing FCW that "we cannot answer your speci c questions." The private sector recognizes the government s vested interest in big data, and companies are lining up to offer their products and services to agencies. In August, longtime government IT services contractor Carahsoft announced a partnership with Cloudera, which provides software and services grounded in the popular Apache Hadoop open-source big data platform, to make the companies offerings available through the General Services Administration s Schedule 70 contracts. The two companies have been working together for a while, Carahsoft President Craig Abod said. "We have expanded our footprint of Hadoop users across the Intel- ligence Community and civilian sector exponentially," he said, though he declined to get into speci cs, noting only that "the projects we are working on deal with matters of national securi- ty, intelligence, cybersecurity, health care and energy." Abod said Carahsoft now offers agencies big data services from mul- tiple companies, including Datameer, Digital Reasoning, MarkLogic, Data- Direct, EMC and VMware. And he added that the rm s annual Govern- ment Big Data Forum has helped government IT professionals and contractors to explore "issues of common concern." Abod said the company s biggest challenge is "the slow adoption of a number of big data technologies, including Apache Hadoop," in the federal space. Cloudera also has been establish- ing itself as a provider of big data solutions to government. "Clou- dera s technology is being used in some capacity or another in almost every government agency," a Cloudera spokesperson said in a statement. "Many use it via the GSA program called USASearch, which provides advanced citizen-focused ser- vices to agency websites. Others use it as part of embed- ded systems being shipped by partners such as Oracle, Dell and HP." Cloudera of cials declined to share success stories so far, telling FCW that "while we are not able to publicly disclose speci c government use cases, we can say that Cloudera advises numerous government agencies and pro- vides ongoing hands-on implementation support, systems design and architecture." Regarding the gap between federal agencies and private companies, Olds said, "What private enterprises are doing is much more directed and focused.... But big data initia- tives need to have concrete goals. You shouldn t be just going on shing expeditions. And it s hard for government at the federal level to move that way." ■ Big data initiatives need to have concrete goals. You shouldn't be going on shing expeditions. Dan Olds, Gabriel Consulting Group
October 30, 2012
November 30, 2012