Celebrating its seventh year, Big Data Belfast 2019 – hosted in the ICC, Belfast was its biggest and best yet. Business professionals and data enthusiasts came together to create a conference boasting more than 600 participates, over 20 talks, two panel sessions, numerous exhibits & stalls and gallons of coffee!

Below are a few key points that I took away from the event.

1. Your business data is more valuable than you think

This was the key takeaway from a talk by Paul Brook from Dell on understanding your ‘shape of data’ to ensure businesses get the best value from it. This point was no less showcased than through countless business case studies present on the day; RTE analysed journalistic data to uncover political fraud whilst the sport analytics panel explained how they used data to monitor injuries & player performance and immersive reality to analyse decision making & execution.

2. The ever-changing field that is big data

Eoin O’Reilly from EY talked about the changes he had seen over the last 10 years. One of the standout changes he described was how data is driving business strategy which he deemed, ‘data taking a seat at the executive table’.

eXplainable AI (XAI) is another hot topic right now. The ability for machines to ‘explain’ to the user how they came up with the result they did is vital in bridging the gap between AI and human-computer interaction (HCI); highlighting key characteristics that led to the output or showing similar examples allows the user to understand how the program came to that decision. This leads to more trustworthy systems.

3. The internet is compromised

It wouldn’t be a true tech conference without a little scare, step forward Bill Harmer from Zscaler who provided an overview into cyber-security as we move our processes into the cloud and users off-site. Previously, companies fortified their intranet to protect the users and applications that access them. Bouncing a request around from one security device to another, as much as over 20 times before providing a result to the user, significantly reducing user experience.

That was the ideal setup 30 years ago. Today, however, companies are getting rid of their hardware overheads and delegating them to cloud services such as AWS, Azure, Workday, etc. ‘Backdoor’ access to a company’s’ applications are increasing as they become more flexible in allowing employees to work from home. Working in less secure networks but still accessing these cloud services all the same. The best security design concept to use is the idea that, ‘the internet is compromised’.

Overall, the sheer variety of companies making use of data-driven techniques to better their businesses in all kinds of sectors was astonishing. I networked with a whole host of people from bespoke furniture making companies to those responsible for maintaining geographical information systems to even, an oceanologist. All with the vision of using data and/or innovative technology to give their business an advantage.

Big Data Belfast 2019 was a great experience and I look forward to attending again in the future!

Find out about opportunities in data at Kainos.