Colin Archibald, professor of computer programming

ColinArchibaldYou’ve heard about it, maybe even work with it. But what IS Big Data, and how is it useful?

Colin Archibald, professor of computer programming, is using his University Club of Orlando Chair in Advanced Computer Technology to investigate using Big Data to possibly create a course in Big Data.

“’Big Data’ is a new form of data processing that allows us to see trends and correlations in very large sets of data.  Some are calling this new research area ‘Data Science.’  The volume and lack of structure of Big Data prevents the use of traditional software development tools.  New methods of applying statistical processes on large data sets are emerging as a discipline within computing.   There is a shortage of talent in this area, and companies are limited by this,” according to Professor Archibald.

Data comes from almost everything we do now.  How frequently do you change the channel before you decide to watch a particular TV show?  There is a company trying to learn something from that data right now.  Your location, and movements as monitored by the smart phone in your pocket, are somehow valuable to some business, even if it’s only to present a more appropriate advertisement to you while you’re on Facebook.  Although there is room for nefarious uses of big data, most of it is business trying to find correlations that impact their bottom line.  Some will be very small, and might not be too meaningful.

Did you know that all the grocery stores run out of Poptarts when a hurricane is in the forecast?  Correlations and IntelAndroidcausations are very different.  It is not likely that a hurricane will come because the stores run out of Poptarts.  Although that one is easy to identify the ‘cause’ in the correlation, it’s frequently not obvious.  Many health-related studies, especially with the result “you should shouldn’t eat XYZ” are now considered to have been wrong and are referred to as “correlation” studies.  New methods in processing larger and more complex data sets may have widespread implications, not only in business, but for our well-being.

The endowed chairs are proposing to investigate the addition of Big Data Programming to the AS Computer Programming and Analysis curriculum at Valencia within the next two years (currently planned as a special topics course in the fall of 2016). If this is viewed as valuable to the curriculum, it will be added as a permanent course in the AS Computer Programming.

To facilitate that, they’re planning on Dr. Archibald and Professor Jerry Reed attending some short courses to study the techniques and programming languages used specifically for Big Data.

 

 

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