May
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BOSTON’s STRONG with Big Data

Posted on May 1, 2013 by Rick Farnell

Sadly, the 2013 Boston Marathon may mark the day that the world witnessed first hand the value of Big Data.

We started Think Big in 2010, when only a handful of companies even knew what Big Data meant or what value it could create.  It may be the horrific events of the 2013 Boston Marathon and what transpired leading to the capture of the suspects that mark the point in time when the world (outside of Silicon Valley) fully comprehends Big Data and the value it can create.  

While we were not involved with the investigation, here’s what we all know: Authorities and intelligence officials collected, stored and analyzed video footage from street cameras and countless digital videos and photographs taken near the finish line that were posted to social media sites. Investigators then released photos of the two suspects to the public.  The suspects murdered a policeman, robbed a convenience store and stole a car. Utilizing GPS device tracking of the hijacked automobile, the police engaged in a car chase into Watertown, MA.  25 hours after releasing the suspects’ photos, police shut down an entire metropolitan city, located the final suspect and took him into custody.

Numerous Big Data applications were likely utilized in the capture of the suspects:

  1. Streaming Video Analytics – Video footage from the finish line on Boylston Street and surrounding streets were likely used to analyze millions of people and narrow in on possible suspects.

  2. Social Data Analytics – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn were utilized for communication surrounding the event.  It is likely that many photos and videos posted to these sites were used in the days of analysis leading to Thursday’s posting of the photos of the two suspects.  Social Media was often the primary way in which information went out to the public, causing the TV and media to lag behind and try and catch up with what was first posted and circulated online.

  3. Mobile Phone Analytics – Phone records, calling patterns and GPS locators were likely utilized to narrow down the list of people who might have had a connection to the suspects.

  4. GPS/Device Data Analytics – The hijacked car was tracked by authorities and engaged in the initial car chase leading to Watertown.

  5. Financial Analytics – Once suspects were identified it is likely that all transactions that they made were analyzed.

  6. Big Data Analytics – Numerous intelligence agencies and authorities collaborated together to share data and information in order to help compress the analysis of the situation and identify the suspects in a timely manner.

These applications could only come alive and provide the invaluable, timely, analytic insights by using modern Big Data technologies for data capture, data storage, data integration, data sharing, analysis and alerts.  Now when people ask me what is this Big Data thing? I can tell them, using Big Data analytics allowed Boston to analyze camera, video, picture, web traffic, social, mobile, financial and GPS data to capture the Boston bombing suspects.  I have a feeling that, once people realize this, they’ll change their position from “what is the value of Big Data?” to “Thank God for the value you can create with Big Data!”

Our hearts and prayers go out to the individuals and families impacted by the events surrounding the Boston Marathon.  Stay strong forever! 

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