Panel: Big Data Can Be ‘Democratized’ For The Masses

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governments and public agencies, both at the local and federal levels.

Tracy says Propeller has worked with the municipal government of Louisville, KY, to create a program that provides some asthmatic residents there with free smart sensors for their inhalers. The goal for Propeller and city leaders is to gain insight into when and where people with asthma experience symptoms.

He says Propeller is also able to combine the information its sensors and inhalers gather with data on air quality and weather from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We’re putting lots of government data sources to work inside of our system,” he says.

Tracy says the biggest challenge when it comes to integrating government data is what he sees as a lack of technical standards. For example, he says there are groups all over the country collecting pollen data, but they’re not always consistent in how they document and publish the information.

One leader in Madison who bridges the worlds of government and technology is Maurice Cheeks. He serves on the Madison City Council, and is also vice president of business development at MIOsoft, a software company based in town that helps customers tackle big data problems, including improving and validating the quality of the information they collect.

Cheeks, who was not part of Monday’s panel discussion, says that most organizations today, even small ones, have more data at their disposal than they know what to do with. But even if leaders at these groups know what types of data are being stored, and how to get at the information, many of them are still a ways off from using their own data to its full potential.

“Data, I think historically has been something that lives in this little siloed area of an organization, whether that’s IT or finance or maybe marketing,” he says. “One of the things that’s changing about the world is that companies are starting to recognize that their data is one of their greatest assets.”

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