Using Big Data to Solve Future Problems

MIT's Media Lab is working with Dubai's Smart Government group, gathering and analyzing data to run a smarter city.

by Rohma Sadaqat, Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates / November 25, 2015
Alex "Sandy" Pentland, Director of the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program. flickr/Cognizant Technology Solutions

(TNS) -- It is possible to ethically use big data techniques to solve major regional and global problems, Alex Sandy Pentland, co-creator of MIT's Media Lab, said at Smart Con Dubai 2015.

Speaking on the topic - 'Social Physics: A new way to interpret how big data, technology and the Internet of Things will impact the businesses and governments' - Pentland said big data techniques can be used for a number of activities such as predicting the health of an individual, the wealth of a community or crime in a neighbourhood.

Pentland also spoke at length on how social engagement with individuals can predict buying behaviour. "If you want to fix things, get more people communicating with each other. This leads to more ideas being generated and ultimately more innovation," he said.

"Good ideas come from engagement. People that are engaged with each other give a good performance. The same is true for companies. Having engagement within your workgroup leads to greater productivity," Pentland added. "In addition, utilise social network incentives for better results. These can be far more powerful than direct incentives."

Pentland was also present during the signing of an MoU between the Dubai Smart Government (DSG) and the MIT Connection Science Group & Analytics Centre during the event. The MoU is one of a series of initiatives from DSG in solidarity with UAE Innovation Week.

Ahmad bin Humaidan, DSG director-general, said: "Signing this MoU demonstrates our desire to work with world-class and leading academics from MIT, to get insights into leveraging technology and human networks to design and implement tools to create a happy society to live in a smart city such as Dubai.

"The MoU will complement and contribute to our strategic mission which is to formulate and implement policies for innovative and smart ICT usage, contributing to economic welfare, social progress and the global competitiveness of Dubai."

Pentland added: "I look forward to collaborating with the Dubai Smart Government because together we have the possibility of creating a happier, more productive and more creative city society by better understanding the social ties and relationships that make up the society, and then crafting ICT policies and architectures which can build off and leverage this social fabric."

"We have a clear mission of supporting the entire eco-system of new and disruptive technologies around big data, Internet of Things and advanced analytics. We believe such capabilities are going to be key for the UAE in its next big leap forward and our collaboration with DSG is a sign of our commitment to this cause," said Caglar Gogus, MD of Analytics Centre and co-founder of the Smart Con conference.

©2015 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.