CSIRO enters commercial Big Data

Australia’s flagship government research agency – the CSIRO – has ramped-up its Big Data project work on behalf of both public and private sector clients, calling it the most revolutionary and potentially transformative IT technology to emerge in years.

The CSIRO increasingly offers its services on commercial terms, and is using its strength in high-end mathematics and computing to help Australian customers take advantage of Big Data capabilities.

Alan Dormer, the Government and Commercial Services theme leader within the CSIRO’s Digital and Productivity Services Flagship, says Australia is still a long way behind the US in extracting that potential that Big Data can offer. But it is a huge area of focus, and that Australia is following its usual path as an enthusiastic early adopter.

Mr Dormer will present at the CeBIT Global Conferences’ Big Data event being held in Sydney on October 31 – November 1. He will outline the Big Data impact on the economy and society, running through a host of project examples that the CSIRO has been engaged in.

Mr Dormer says sophisticated commercial and government users in Australia are well aware of the generic capabilities of Big Data projects. But until it is applied to a specific organisation, it is difficult to get a read on its value.

“It’s not the product that’s the issue. It’s the customer knowing what to do with it,” Mr Dormer said.

“We basically do research in this area (on behalf of clients.) So as people see what’s possible, they tend to get more ambitious in terms of (what they want to do with) Big Data,” he said.

“The appetite grows with the eating (for clients.) And we have the largest concentration of mathematicians in the country, so we have been pretty active in this space.”

The CSIRO projects are at the sharp end of research, rather than commercial implementations or consulting. These projects usually involve its officers writing applications specific to the project, and sometimes taking advantage of the supercomputing facilities at CSIRO.

Among the projects so the CSIRO has engaged with so far, the focus has been in government services (including looking how people interact with services,) financial services (including payment security and fraud) and at the disaster management area.

Customers have included the federal Department of Human Services , the United Nations and AusAid, and NSW Fire and Rescue.

Mr Dormer says the agency is now starting a focus on the retail sector, an area where he said Big Data will have an enormous impact. “It’s going to make a huge difference to the way that people deal with customers – and that includes clients, or citizens, depending on the organisation dealing with them.”

See Alan Dormer, Science Leader, Government and Commercial Services, CSIRO, at the Big Data Conference in Sydney on
31 October – 1 November 2012.