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MIT Launches Big Data Initiative, Becomes Home to Intel Science and Technology Center

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) will be home to the Intel Science and Technology Center (ISTC) for Big Data. CSAIL will also launch a new initiative called bigdata@CSAIL to study "data collections that are too big, growing too fast, or are too complex for existing information technology systems to handle," according to information released by the school.

In an effort to make big data more useful to society, bigdata@CSAIL is designed to develop new techniques for collecting, storing, sharing, processing, analyzing, and sharing big data through collaborations between experts in academia, industry, and government.

With a focus on areas such as finance, medicine, security, and social media, CSAIL will build new systems "from the ground up" to deal with the "data deluge," according to Laboratory Director Daniela Rus.

"For example,"said Sam Madden, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and leader of the new initiative, "we hope to develop more sophisticated tools for in-depth processing of medical information, which could lead to more accurate diagnostic techniques and better treatment methods for patients. We also want to secure the ever-expanding datasets of medical, financial and personal information."

"Thanks to the proliferation of highly interactive Web sites, social networks, online financial transactions, and sensor-equipped devices, we are awash in data," Madden said. "With the right tools, we can begin to make sense of the data and use it to solve any number of pressing societal problems‑-but our existing tools are outdated and rooted in computer systems and technologies developed in the 1970s."

ISTCs "are Intel-funded, jointly-led research collaborations between Intel and the United States academic community," according to information on the company's Web site. Each center has a hub university with spoke institutions and focuses on specific technologies.

The other universities taking part in the new center include the University of California at Santa Barbara, Portland State University, Brown University, the University of Washington, and Stanford University.

"Specific research will examine designing and prototyping hardware and software for storing, managing, processing, understanding, and visualizing data; discovering novel algorithms and scalable, co-designed architectural alternatives; and innovative ways of optimizing modern processor technology trends such as multicore, manycore, and emerging non-volatile memory technologies," according to information released by Intel.

The sixth center the company has opened since 2011, the new ISTC will join networks researching cloud computing, embedded computing, visual computing, secure computing, and pervasive computing.

"We are witnessing unprecedented growth in unstructured digital data and this will only accelerate further through the rapid increase of mobile Internet devices such as phones, cars, and signs, and the projected development of the 'Internet of Things,' which will be constantly sensing the world around us," said Justin Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer. "For this massive amount of what is called 'big data' to be useful, it has to be analyzed to be made understandable. Our goal is to innovate and guide this work across multiple fields, from medical to media, to extract meaning from large amounts of data."

More information is available at

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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