MIT Establishes Research Center to Harness ‘Big Data’

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology today announced a research initiative to tame so-called Big Data, sets of information that are so complex and fast-growing that they defy traditional methods of analysis. Examples are the data involved in online financial transactions of major banks or collected by social networks.

Key to the effort will be the creation of the Intel Science and Technology Center for Big Data, which will reside at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The computer-chip maker Intel will contribute $2.5-million per year for up to five years to support the research center. The lab also plans to work with other companies, including AIG, EMC, SAP, and Thomson Reuters, in the project.

“With the right tools, we can begin to make sense of the data and use it to solve any number of pressing societal problems—but our existing tools are outdated and rooted in computer systems and technologies developed in the 1970s,” said Sam Madden, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT who is leading the Big Data initiative, in a statement.

In an interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Madden added that the researches involved hope to address privacy concerns raised by these massive data sets as well. “We need to look at what are the technical solutions to keeping data private and securing data, and then work with policy makers to help them develop policies to protect the privacy of data,” he said.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who appeared at MIT on Wednesday to unveil the project, called it part of a statewide effort to make Massachusetts a “premier destination for Big Data.”

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