Analytics is the new combustion engine says visiting academic

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Experts in the fields of big data and business intelligence met at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University to present their research work in an area that is transforming the world.

Held at the International Academic Exchange and Collaboration Centre on the University’s South Campus, the International Conference on Big Data Analytics and Business Intelligence (ICBDBI 2017) provided an opportunity for researchers and business practitioners to meet and discuss the latest solutions to intriguing problems in the field.

In his opening remarks Professor Youmin Xi, executive president of XJTLU, spoke about how higher education institutions can best respond to the big data revolution. “The growth of big data presents challenges as well as opportunities for industries and academia,” said Professor Xi.

He explained how XJTLU’s new education model: Syntegrative Education, will enable graduates to thrive in the world’s changing job market by offering modules developed in partnership with industry, and training in entrepreneurship and leadership.

Dr William Yeoh, director of IBM Centre of Excellence in Business Analytics at Deakin University, Australia, offered some inspiring words to students of big data and analytics during his keynote speech entitled, ‘Business intelligence and analytics: research, education and trends.’

“Last year the worldwide licensing software revenue for the analytics market was more than 16 billion US dollars,” he said. “In Australia, analytics graduates with over three years’ working experience can earn salaries of over a hundred thousand dollars. I know there are a number of analytics students here and I’d like to tell them: you are on the right track.”

Dr Yeoh is active in research in business intelligence and analytics, information quality, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, and information systems, and has had many papers published in top journals. He is also editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Business Intelligence Research.

“If information is the ‘oil’ of the 21st century, analytics is the combustion engine,” he said. “By harnessing big data, we can provide more insights to inform decision-making processes and improve our lives.”

Dr Hongjuan Liu, regional director of insight and analytics for Aegon Insights Asia Pacific, gave some examples during his presentation on how big data and analytics are transforming the insurance industry.

New ‘telematics boxes’ fitted in cars will collect data on driver behaviour that insurance companies can use to offer more favourable premiums to safer drivers. This new technology is also likely to improve driver safety through the incentive of those lower insurance premiums, as well as through feedback provided by the telematics boxes to the drivers themselves.

“As well as telematics in cars, there is also ‘personal telematics’,” said Dr Liu.

Fitbit and Xiaomi Shouhuan are bracelets that monitor the number of steps users take, and connect with mobile phone apps to provide detailed health information to users. A health insurance company, Manulife, is using this data to offer personalised wellness programs that offer rewards to consumers when they make choices to live healthier lives.

“They said to their customers, ‘If you allow us to access your step count data, we will give you a free Fitbit. If after one year you are regularly taking 10,000 steps every day, we will give you a discount on your next premium.’ It’s a win-win for both parties – insurance companies can have more accurate data on their customers, and healthier people will pay lower premiums.”

Conor Spence, an English for Academic Purposes tutor for Year Two students from International Business School Suzhou at XJTLU, attended the Conference:

"As an EAP teacher who works with the Business School I wanted a better understanding of what’s going there so I can do my job better," he said. "The Conference was really fascinating. Big data and analytics are going to affect every area of life, including education."

During the conference, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Professor Steven Guan of XJTLU and Dr William Yeoh of Deakin University, Australia, solidifying a joint desire for collaboration between the two research centres in the fields of big data and business intelligence.

“The agreement will facilitate the sharing of resources, staff visits, research collaborations, the co-organising of events such as international competitions, training courses, and more international conferences,” said Professor Guan.

The MoU signing was witnessed by Professor Dennis Wong, Deputy Provost at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia. He also delivered a keynote speech at the Conference.

A training course hosted by the Research Institute of Big Data Analytics will take place in the days following the conference, intended for students and workers in the big data industry and related businesses with over 120 attendants pre-registered. Dr Simon Fong, an expert in data mining and big data analytics from the University of Macau and one of the keynote speakers at ICBDBI 2017, will deliver the training course.

The conference was supported by: IBM Centre of Excellence in Business Analytics, Deakin University, Australia; IEEE Computer Magazine (Chinese Edition); A.Miner.org; Data Analytics and Collaborative Computing Group, University of Macau, Macao; Institute of Information and Decision Sciences, National Taipei University of Business, Taipei; School of Big Data Management, Soochow University, Taipei.

photographer: Xiaoxi Zhao, writer: Danny Abbasi

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