North Carolina Universities Enter Big Data with $9 Million Grant

CHARLOTTE-- Big money is headed to North Carolina universities to study big data. Campus leaders say $9 million in grants will help them answer some of the biggest questions surrounding a ballooning industry.

“People say that data is the new currency of this century,” said Mirsad Hadzikadic, executive director of the new program.

Every day, companies like Facebook, Google and AT&T are all collecting data on you. The data is housed in massive data centers. North Carolina is becoming a key hub for those centers according to the North Carolina Technology Association, but Hadzikadic says companies aren't realizing the full potential of it yet.

“We collect anything and everything, but we don't know what to do with it,” he said.

He’s now heading the UNC Charlotte Data Science Initiative, which is part of a new program funded by a $9 million state grant banding North Carolina universities together to tackle that data. They’ll be “acquiring data, storing it, securing it and then processing so that we gain some knowledge from it,” he said.

That money will go to new hardware stored in rooms around campuses to house the data. It will also fund studies to pick apart the numbers over the next few years.

“Helping companies understand what kind of risk they face,” said Hadzikadic. “The state of North Carolina, what kind of risk we face in any aspect of our social well-being.”

The goal of the data is to craft individual security solutions at companies like Bank of America or help craft a healthcare plan for patients at Carolinas Medical Center. Hadzikadic says universities can handle these issues better than companies.

“We have probably 68-plus disciplines presented here on campus. When we look at a problem, we look at it from so many angles that no corporation outside of the universities can really match,” he said.

And no need to worry about Big brother, Hadzikadic says. The data they're looking at is anonymous. Eventually, he says, someone needs to figure out how to use it for the greater good.

“People who collect the data, like Google and so on, they will collect even more data, but the greatest beneficiary of our effort will be the citizens of North Carolina.”

UNC Charlotte says they've already started on the work. They hope to get the funding by March.

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