How might we benefit from analysis of large volumes of data?

We live now in an age of continuous connection and interaction. As our society increasingly uses digitised technologies, our data is being collected whether we like it or not. The important question is how we use that data, including whether society as a whole will benefit from it.

Marianne Cherrington, a Senior Lecturer in Applied Management, is undertaking research into machine-learning algorithms that will extract useful information from high dimensional data. When she did her first degree, in Mathematics and Statistics, she was working with data with five variables to select the two most informative. Now the processing power available is such that the algorithms she is working on are able to select the five most informative features out of 100,000 possible variables.

These algorithms will be relevant in many fields, including business, education and health. Services will become more personalised because every interaction with a customer enhances our ability to understand that customer and predict what the customer wants or needs. For example health data gathered from wearable technologies might justify a discount on a health insurance premium, help to treat people in isolated areas like rural India, and reduce health costs in New Zealand by identifying issues sooner when they can be treated without hospital admission.

June 2019