CeBIT 2014: The (accidental) art of making Big Data analytics profitable -CSIRO

Allan Swann

"If we're not careful, we'll end up as a net importer of everything," he said.

One of the hardest problems Heydon faces is attempting to get various government agencies to work together - especially since in the future they will not be so distinct.

One of CSIRO's most high profile projects has been the Zebedee - a 3D environment scanner. It was originally used to map changes in the environment, but now it is being used by Queensland police to map crime scenes quickly.

For example, after a crash on the motorway, officers can quickly 3D scan the entire scene, gather all the information they need, and quickly reopen the motorway - instead of shutting it for hours and causing a traffic jam. These are the unforeseen consequences of technology, and data analysis. The cost benefits, in both time and money, reduce wastage.

From here, the technology has been used to 3D map the exterior and interior of the Leaning Tower of Pisa - producing the first ever accurate rendering of the building, which the Italian government can then use to produce solutions to keep it from sinking.

Airline companies have already signed up to use the product to map the interiors of newly built jumbo jets, which can then be kept on file to monitor changes to the aircraft structure over time - such as cracks or in the aftermath of an accident.

CSIRO's agricultural sensors have also been adapted to plot the course of bushfires, ensuring prevention and timely reaction from emergency services.

It has also developed new systems to collate and measure agricultural data, using less than conventional means. In Tasmania it is studying the data from oysters to understand the effects of chemical runoff from agriculture, and studying grapes to predict botrytis - and tracing where the pesticide run off goes, and how it affects soil fertility. Both of these methods have been exported to external markets.

Another project that saw unforeseen consequences was CSIRO's analysis of a database of two billion tweets. Asking theoretical questions such as 'what is normal?' and what happens to tweets that are outside the 'normal' parameters also leads to being able to track the source 'tweet'. This was demonstrated when CSIRO knew about the Christchurch earthquake 20 minutes before the New Zealand media did.

Other digital tracking and data analysis systems, initially developed for sports scientists, are now used by the major TV networks to track player performance in game, and in app. Viewers can track whether players were out of position and how many steps they take in a game, a profitable new set of statistics to exploit. As an aside, there has been interest from other industries, such as mining, for emergency preventative measures.

"All of this is really just the Internet of Things going crazy with analytics on top," Heydon said.

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