The Seamless Enterprise

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Young Minds Addressing Big Data Problems

on December 21, 2011 by Heidi Gigler

Meet two of today’s innovators – not ordinary innovators, in fact some might even say geniuses. These two young men haven’t yet reached 19 years of age. What unites these innovators is that they are tackling one of today’s biggest Internet problems: helping people search and use relevant data.

The Challenge
ComputerWorld.com defines it this way: the Internet, web servers and web application servers were initially designed for the mid-1990s Internet scenario to allow people to access information quickly rather than create the information themselves. Developers of these web servers and other systems were not expecting the high level of data that would be pushed every second of every minute of every hour. And, as we increasingly take over the role as publishers, instead of consumers, the architecture of these web services is not keeping up with the data demands as we increase our number of tweets, photos, et al. This is not exclusive to consumers; Fortune 100 companies are some of the largest contributors to Big Data.

Enter Today’s Innovators
GigaOm introduces us to Nick D’Aloisio — founder of the iPhone app Summly. This app essentially looks at the content of a web page and creates a quick summary of that web page, then formats it nicely for the iPhone screen. This is important because today’s searches are affected by SEO strategies that don’t necessarily yield the data that is most relevant to the user. That, coupled with the problem of too much information, means the most relevant sites are not necessarily finding their way to the top of search results. Says Nick, when using Google he doesn’t have enough time to click in and out of every article and story on the web. He wanted a way to skim-establishing its entire content before deciding to read through its entirety. Remarkably, at 16 years of age, this is not Nick’s first successful iPhone app.

Next, meet Nicholas Schiefer, an 11th grade winner of the gold medal at both the York Region Science and Technology Fair and the annual Canada-Wide Science Fair for his Apodora project. His research project focused on information retrieval, or the study of constructing search engines. Specifically, he concentrated on an area called microsearch, which deals with search on very short documents such as tweets, Facebook status updates, and news headlines. His secret? He uses semantic baggage as an element in his searches. Nicholas is able to integrate the sentiment or associations of particular words, beyond their literal meaning, which is particularly useful for making sense of social media information. Particularly for big business, there are large amounts of useful data found in social media communication. The opportunity is mining and leveraging the relevant information. 

Accessing and consuming information remains critical for businesses and individuals today. What’s different, says Nicholas, is “we’re now at the point where the amount of information that is produced, stored, and made available has exceeded our capacity to process it.” Thankfully, smart minds are on task, improving searches to make them more relevant.


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About the Author

Heidi Gigler is passionate about customer loyalty and business development. She has built her career developing strong relationships and product expertise to drive revenue for Fortune 100 enterprises and small to mid-market businesses. Heidi’s career includes more than 10 years in the telecommunications/high-tech industry, with an emphasis on growing the managed services practice at Sprint. As Strategic Alliance Manager at Sprint, Heidi partnered with Cisco, Microsoft, and HP, launching new product solutions to the enterprise and mid-market business segments. Her product experience includes IP and wireless security, managed services, mobility and wireless solutions, and technology integration. Heidi earned her MBA from the The College of William & Mary Mason School of Business, and her BA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is now a freelance writer and development consultant in Austin, Texas and enjoys her free time reading, traveling, and exploring the outdoors.

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