Big Data, Big Solutions

Georgia Tech to Co-Direct NSF’s South Big Data Regional Innovation Hub

Srinivas Aluru, Georgia Tech's lead principal investigator and professor at the School of Computational Science & Engineering

Big data is a rapidly emerging discipline often hailed as the lynchpin for increasing economic prosperity and understanding or resolving societal problems. Yet to do so requires collaboration from diverse experts and access to real-world data from multiple stakeholders. Recognizing this widespread potential, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has named the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as collaborative partners in a new, national effort that establishes four Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs across the United States.

Georgia Tech and UNC-Chapel Hill will jointly house the South Big Data Regional Innovation Hub (South BD Hub)—serving 16 states and the District of Columbia with big data from industry and government in order to support large-scale scientific research and regional problem solving.

“This partnership pushed us to think about collaboration and dialogue within and amongst a large number of stakeholders in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise,” said Srinivas Aluru, lead principal investigator from Georgia Tech and professor in the School of Computational Science & Engineering. “Pairing two of the country’s finest public institutions as hub co-directors is an exciting and effective way for us to address region-specific challenges.”

The South BD Hub will aim to apply big data analysis to scientific and social issues in five areas:

  • Health Care, including disparities in health, access to health care, and health outcomes, precision medicine, and health analytics.
  • Coastal Hazards, including understanding and mitigating the consequences of natural and manmade disasters.
  • Industrial Big Data, including cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, data-driven management of physical infrastructure, and power generation, transmission, and distribution from a variety of sources.
  • Materials and Manufacturing, including data-driven contributions to the materials genome initiative and bridging the gap between materials science and manufacturing practice.
  • Habitat Planning, including urban infrastructure, smart cities efforts, transportation, rural-urban infrastructure, and wildlife habitat and conservation.

“The initiative will bring together key regional stakeholders for the first time to address many of these issues,” Aluru said. “There are a variety of unique opportunities for us to uncover innovative solutions by simply enhancing best practices in big data analysis.”

Brainpower isn’t the only way South BD Hub will be powered by Georgia Tech. Southern Crossroads (SoX) -- a non-profit founded by Georgia Tech and partners and recognized as one the highest-bandwidth Internet gateways in the South -- will connect 21 member institutions and universities to the South BD Hub’s national data repositories and provide data transfer capabilities. Georgia Tech also is preparing to build a multi-story, 750,000-square-foot building in the heart of Atlanta devoted to data science and high-performance computing for centralized collaboration among industry, academia and government.    

“SoX and planned infrastructure underway will enable us to build national data repositories and provide unprecedented regional and national connectivity,” Aluru said.

Initial NSF funding for the South BD Hub will be $1.25 million over three years with additional funds expected to follow.

“Georgia Tech’s rich ecosystem surrounding high performance computing and analytics naturally places us at the forefront of the emerging data revolution,” said David Bader, chair of the School of Computational Science & Engineering. “Management of the South Big Data Regional Hub enables our faculty and students to solve some of the nation’s most critical real-world problems that affect people and society.”

“Georgia Tech is proud to leverage its research expertise and significant industry partnerships to facilitate the use of big data,“ said Georgia Tech Executive Vice President for Research Steve Cross. "We are already reaching across traditional boundaries and solving complex problems through collaboration with academic, business and government partners. The hub greatly expands that work across a 16 state region.”

In addition to the South BD Hub, the NSF funded hubs in the Northeast, Midwest, and Western United States, which are managed by Columbia University (Northeast); University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Midwest; University of California San Diego, University of California Berkley, and University of Washington (Western).