Paul Watson, Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Digital Institute at Newcastle University, works with people and organisations in all areas of society, from major companies like Microsoft to small charities, to tackle the issue of social exclusion through the use of digital technologies.
Never before have such large quantities of data been available to us on just about anything you care to name. Extracting value from it previously required ownership of vast and expensive computing systems with all the associated costs of buying, maintaining and updating the hardware and software involved. With the advent of cloud computing, organisations and individuals suddenly have access to scalable computing as and when it is needed, giving them unlimited potential to access, analyse and exploit that data.
With £12 million worth of Research Councils UK funding, the Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy (SiDE) project is exploring how design technologies can be digitised to transform the lives of people who are socially excluded, such as older people, those with disabilities, and young people on the margins of society. For example, one of their projects uses sensors in digital wristwatches to benefit people suffering from cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. The sensors measure a patient’s activity, bringing in a vast amount of data that can be analysed to help understand their behaviour. This allows personalised treatments to be designed which enable patients to modify the amount and type of exercise they are getting and, in doing so, to alleviate their medical problems. When the patient visits the clinic, a nurse plugs the watch into a computer and all of the data is analysed into readable reports for both patient and doctor in a matter of minutes.
Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy (SiDE) project Twitter: https://twitter.com/SiDEResearch
Red Hat, one of the world’s largest software companies, has created in Newcastle one of only two leading-edge technology research centres worldwide. Based at Newcastle University, due to their expertise in cloud computing, the centre involves the University’s students in some of its £20 million worth of projects which use cloud computing to do things scientists have never been able to do before with their data. One such project, involving collaboration with Microsoft, looks at working with chemists on the discovery of new cancer drugs. The problem for the chemists involved in this project was how to extract useful information from the vast range of new data available to them. With existing systems it would have taken five years to process the data; with cloud computing it can be done in just ten hours.
By 2015, industry estimates that big data demand will create 4.4 million jobs globally but that only one-third of those jobs will be filled. Newcastle University’s MSc Cloud Computing degree is designed to address the growing demand for graduates to fill these jobs by providing its students with:
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