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MIT, Intel Corp. to Collaborate on Big Data Research

Supercomputer (kosheahan/Flickr)Massachusetts Institute of Technology will host a new Intel Corporation research center that studies techniques for organizing and making sense of the huge amounts of information generated by Web users and networked sensors. Intel selected MIT from 157 proposals submitted by 55 institutions.

The challenge of big data, as this field is often called, has emerged from the need to understand the mounting flood of information, forcing the need to scale systems well beyond what the capabilities of current computing platforms, algorithms, and methods. The research center will reside in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and be part of MIT’s research effort called bigdata@csail.

Intel has committed $2.5 million a year to the center for at least the next three years, with an additional two-year commitment possible. As part of the partnership, Intel plans to hire a small group of new researchers, based in Cambridge and will work closely with MIT faculty on technologies related to big data. Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Portland State University, Brown University, the University of Washington and Stanford University will also be affiliated with the center.

The Intel Corp. research program will be led by engineering and computer science professors Sam Madden and Michael Stonebraker. At the announcement of the center yesterday, Madden described its four main research topics: (1) scalable platforms, computing infrastructures that can expand indefinitely to accommodate increasing data loads; (2) data-analysis tools that run on those platforms; (3) scalable techniques for handling security and privacy; and (4) new techniques for visualizing data.

Examples of practical problems that the big data program can address include analysis of biological data that require understanding the complex connections between genetic variations or concentrations of molecules in a cell and processes underlying disease or physiological development. Another application of these tools — and one currently being studied at CSAIL — covers techniques to mine credit-bureau data about the transactions conducted by customers of financial institutions to more accurately predict the risk of default or delinquency.

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who attended the opening of the research center, used the event to announce the state’s big data initiative. The state’s program will feature grant-matching for research and development, internships, a project to investigate the use of big-data technologies to improve government, and a technology collaborative or “hackspace” in Boston, where people working with Big Data can share infrastructure resources and knowledge.

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Hat tip: Ken North

Photo: kosheahan/Flickr

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