Big Data Analytics: Compelling Topics

This post reviews and reflects on the knowledge shared for big data analytics and my opinions on the current compelling topics in the field.

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Big Data and Hadoop:

According to Gray et al. (2005), traditional data management relies on arrays and tables in order to analyze objects, which can range from financial data, galaxies, proteins, events, spectra data, 2D weather, etc., but when it comes to N-dimensional arrays there is an “impedance mismatch” between the data and the database.    Big data, can be N-dimensional, which can also vary across time, i.e. text data (Gray et al., 2005). Big data, by its name, is voluminous. Thus, given the massive amounts of data in Big Data that needs to get processed, manipulated, and calculated upon, parallel processing and programming are there to use the benefits of distributed systems to get the job done (Minelli, Chambers, & Dhiraj, 2013).  Parallel processing allows making quick work on a big data set, because rather than having one processor doing all the work, you split up the task amongst many processors.

Hadoop’s Distributed File System (HFDS), breaks up big data into smaller blocks (IBM, n.d.), which can be aggregated like a set of Legos throughout a distributed database system. Data blocks are distributed across multiple servers. Hadoop is Java-based and pulls on the data that is stored on their distributed servers, to map key items/objects, and reduces the data to the query at hand (MapReduce function). Hadoop is built to deal with big data stored in the cloud.

Cloud Computing:

Clouds come in three different privacy flavors: Public (all customers and companies share the all same resources), Private (only one group of clients or company can use a particular cloud resources), and Hybrid (some aspects of the cloud are public while others are private depending on the data sensitivity.  Cloud technology encompasses Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).  These types of cloud differ in what the company managers on what is managed by the cloud provider (Lau, 2011).  Cloud differs from the conventional data centers where the company managed it all: application, data, O/S, virtualization, servers, storage, and networking.  Cloud is replacing the conventional data center because infrastructure costs are high.  For a company to be spending that much money on a conventional data center that will get outdated in 18 months (Moore’s law of technology), it’s just a constant sink in money.  Thus, outsourcing the data center infrastructure is the first step of company’s movement into the cloud.

Key Components to Success:

You need to have the buy-in of the leaders and employees when it comes to using big data analytics for predictive, prescriptive or descriptive purposes.  When it came to buy-in, Lt. Palmer had to nurture top-down support as well as buy-in from the bottom-up (ranks).  It was much harder to get buy-in from more experienced detectives, who feel that the introduction of tools like analytics, is a way to tell them to give up their long-standing practices and even replace them.  So, Lt. Palmer had sold Blue PALMS as “What’s worked best for us is proving [the value of Blue PALMS] one case at a time, and stressing that it’s a tool, that it’s a compliment to their skills and experience, not a substitute”.  Lt. Palmer got buy-in from a senior and well-respected officer, by helping him solve a case.  The senior officer had a suspect in mind, and after feeding in the data, the tool was able to predict 20 people that could have done it in an order of most likely.  The suspect was on the top five, and when apprehended, the suspect confessed.  Doing, this case by case has built the trust amongst veteran officers and thus eventually got their buy in.

Applications of Big Data Analytics:

A result of Big Data Analytics is online profiling.  Online profiling is using a person’s online identity to collect information about them, their behaviors, their interactions, their tastes, etc. to drive a targeted advertising (McNurlin et al., 2008).  Profiling has its roots in third party cookies and profiling has now evolved to include 40 different variables that are collected from the consumer (Pophal, 2014).  Online profiling allows for marketers to send personalized and “perfect” advertisements to the consumer, instantly.

Moving from online profiling to studying social media, He, Zha, and Li (2013) stated their theory, that with higher positive customer engagement, customers can become brand advocates, which increases their brand loyalty and push referrals to their friends, and approximately 1/3 people followed a friend’s referral if done through social media. This insight came through analyzing the social media data from Pizza Hut, Dominos and Papa Johns, as they aim to control more of the market share to increase their revenue.  But, is this aiding in protecting people’s privacy when we analyze their social media content when they interact with a company?

HIPAA described how we should conduct de-identification of 18 identifiers/variables that would help protect people from ethical issues that could arise from big data.   HIPAA legislation is not standardized for all big data applications/cases; it is good practice. However, HIPAA legislation is mostly concerned with the health care industry, listing those 18 identifiers that have to be de-identified: Names, Geographic data, Dates, Telephone Numbers, VIN, Fax, Device ID and serial numbers, emails addresses, URLs, SSN, IP address, Medical Record Numbers, Biometric ID (fingerprints, iris scans, voice prints, etc), full face photos, health plan beneficiary numbers, account numbers, any other unique ID number (characteristic, codes, etc), and certifications/license numbers (HHS, n.d.).  We must be aware that HIPAA compliance is more a feature of the data collector and data owner than the cloud provider.

HIPAA arose from the human genome project 25 years ago, where they were trying to sequence its first 3B base pair of the human genome over a 13 year period (Green, Watson, & Collins, 2015).  This 3B base pair is about 100 GB uncompressed and by 2011, 13 quadrillion bases were sequenced (O’Driscoll et al., 2013). Studying genomic data comes with a whole host of ethical issues.  Some of those were addressed by the HIPPA legislation while other issues are left unresolved today.

One of the ethical issues that arose were mentioned in McEwen et al. (2013), for people who have submitted their genomic data 25 years ago can that data be used today in other studies? What about if it was used to help the participants of 25 years ago to take preventative measures for adverse health conditions?  However, ethical issues extend beyond privacy and compliance.  McEwen et al. (2013) warn that data has been collected for 25 years, and what if data from 20 years ago provides data that a participant can suffer an adverse health condition that could be preventable.  What is the duty of the researchers today to that participant?

Resources:

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