The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre


Big Data Week 2015 – Perth

Big Data Week 2015 (Friday 17th – Sunday 26th April) was the best yet with excellent attendance across all events. A summary of these events is given below.

The first event saw 27 people attend the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre “Tools for researchers: Hadoop and cloud” workshop on Friday afternoon. Pawsey partners and State Government agencies came and learnt about how researchers could use Hadoop and the NeCTAR Research Cloud for free to undertake better research. Dan Marrable from the Pawsey Data team led the day and gave an excellent overview of the NeCTAR Research Cloud and Hadoop. Curtin University researchers Dr Ponnie Clark, Dr Simon Zhu and Dr Amit Rudra also gave presentations on their data analytics / Hadoop work which gave a useful insight for the audience. A plenary session wrapped the afternoon up with many questions from the audience.

Monday morning saw a full house enjoy the “IMOS Glider Data Exploration Workshop”. Attendees learnt about IMOS ocean gliders, sensors, data parameters and deployments while also discovering how to easily visualise NetCDF data files to examine the data in 3D plots of water properties and vertical profile plots.

That night saw the best-attended event so far for the Mega Data Cluster group with 86 people attending the “Big Data Comes to Town” event hosted by KPMG in the city. Three engaging presentations were given. These were:

Steve Latham and Hugo van Hoogstraten, both from KPMG, who highlighted that data quality underpins the value of big data. Without good quality control of base data, interpretations on the data are less likely to be meaningful, and in some cases can lead to catastrophic outcomes.

Mark Stevens, from Skrydata, who noted that data by itself doesn’t “inform”. Traditional analysis tools are designed to help the brain get to the Aha! moment: they tend to focus on visualisation, statistics, and forming then testing hypotheses. New tools and techniques can look for significant factors amongst the data without having to form hypotheses beforehand.

Finally Gary Hale, from Cisco, who discussed the Internet of Things. He discussed the requirement of a new architecture, with growth in processing power moving closer to the sensors, which will give them capacity for localised decision-making, processing power to reduce the amount of information transmitted, and allow dynamic configuration. Gary called this “fog computing” which complements the cloud with its high capacity networking, large data storage, and supercomputing facilities.

Full details of the event are available here:

Tuesday afternoon saw the Curtin HIVE (Hub for Immersive Visualisation for eResearch) host a well attended presentation on research and big data. Curtin Researchers gave the following presentations:
– “Digital Techno-Culture for Bridging Science and Humanities to Solve Big Problems”
– “3D reconstruction processing for the HMAS Sydney 3D Imaging Project”

Wednesday morning saw the Pawsey Centre bursting at capacity with over 70 people. “DataMax – Maximising Opportunities with Government Data” was an event hosted by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet’s Office of Science and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre. Damien Shepherd, Director of the WALIS Office, professionally led the event which was streamed via the Periscope app. Professor Peter Klinken, Chief Scientist of Western Australia, gave an excellent opening address and the keynote address was shared between Ms Marion Burchell (Manager, COAG Secretariat, Department of Premier and Cabinet) and Mr Keith Moss (Geospatial Specialist, SLIP Services, Landgate) who discussed WA’s proposed Open Data policy and implementation strategy.

Two presentations were then given to demonstrate examples of open data / big data for State Government. Before morning tea there was Mr Adrian Smith who represented the BusHack Team, who were the GovHack 2014 Winners of the Big and Complex Data prize. After morning tea, Mr David Howard (Chief Geophysicist, Geological Survey of Western Australia) talked about geological survey ‘big data’ and the use of Pawsey Supercomputing Centre and the Virtual Geophysics Laboratory. The event finished with a plenary session with a large number of questions being asked, focussing mainly on the State government’s new open data policy.

Thursday afternoon saw Jim Pettigrew, from UWA / IMOS ACORN program, give a seminar at UWA on “Seeing is Believing: Visualizing HF Radar Data for Diverse Users”. The seminar saw Jim talk about surface current visualisation strategies created for The Exploratorium Museum, the Bay Currents iPhone app, and the America’s Cup competition in San Francisco Bay. The role of HF radar in search and rescue efforts, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was also discussed.

There’s Big Data and then there’s radio astronomy Big Data – it’s bigger than big! This was the topic that Associate Professor Kevin Vinsen from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) discussed on Thursday evening. At the wonderful Scitech Planetarium, the general public learnt about big data from the upcoming CHILES project through to the world’s largest future telescope, the Square Kilometre Array.

Finally the Scitech Planetarium ran a series of presentations from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th April called “Big Data across the Globe” that discussed how data is collected, moved and processed each day. Stunning examples gave an idea of how it can be converted from its raw state into fascinating visuals.

Next year we hope to be back and build upon the themes of big and open data from State Government and issues surrounding the implementation of big data including education and training. Special thanks to all the organisers and presenters who gave their time to make Big Data Week 2015 a success.

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