Last Friday (June 14) NOST went to the 2013 Innovation Summit on Big Data, which was held at the Beijing International Convention Center.
When datasets become too large to be stored and analyzed by traditional database-management tools and software, these datasets and the technologies surrounding them are nowadays referred to as ‘Big Data’.
The topic attracted quite a crowd, but it is doubtful that all the presentations were useful for the audience. Somehow it seemed difficult for the speakers to give input on Big Data outside of their own scope of work. Two speakers caught our attention with their speech. The first one was Liang Sheng, deputy director of Beijing Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology. He stated that R&D government funding for Big Data companies was available, but that entrepreneurs should be able to show him who would be the customers of their Big Data tools and services. His speech went beyond the usual general opening remarks, and raised the bar for companies that were thinking about applying for government support. Just describing a project as ‘big data’, ‘cloud technology’ or ‘SaaS’ doesn’t necessarily make it eligible.
The second speaker that we want to mention is a data scientist from Alibaba, Tao Yang. Apparently they have patented certain algorithms, partially inspired by how Google ranks pages. This is interesting because the patentability of algorithms is somewhat disputed in China. But besides this observation, it became clear from the content of his presentation that Alibaba has hired some good data scientists and is digging for gold in all the data that Alibaba has acquired over the years. This feeling is reinforced by the fact that they created a data-platform division with about 800 employees (source: Caixin).
During various discussions several entrepreneurs made statements that getting useful data from mobile users was difficult. Incorrectly configured phones and lack of standards were given as reasons.
The event made it clear that Big Data is a hot topic in China, but at the same time many companies seem to struggle with what Big Data really is and what it can mean for their industry. Many companies will not have large enough datasets to make real use of Big Data and are overestimating this technology trend. While others are underestimating the effects of Big Data and the implications it will have for industries and consumers alike.