Industry Leaders Say Big Data Offers Big Opportunities to Entrepreneurs and Investors in Michigan

Big data is getting even bigger these days, as megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes give way to petabytes and yottabytes of information. Many of these ballooning data sets have become too large and complex to be managed with existing data-handling systems, said a panel of industry leaders a week ago at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium. That problem has opened the door to innovative solutions.

“There are challenges in dealing with big data today,” said Mark Horne, CEO and managing partner of Plymouth Ventures. “But there are also great opportunities that have provided an entrepreneurial boom to companies that collect, manage, analyze and provide security and storage for big data.” Michigan is well-positioned to capitalize on this megatrend, and already has several major players in the big-data space.

“Our company uses big data to help organizations minimize and deal with external risks,” said Ian Clemens, chief technology officer at IDV Solutions, headquartered in Lansing. “We deliver value to customers by mining external data from multiple sources, alerting them to events such as bombings and hurricanes, providing the best possible situational assessment and making it actionable.” IDV Solutions’ enterprise-risk-visualization software is designed to optimize performance, ensure operations and protect people and assets.  It is used by corporations, public-safety agencies and other organizations across multiple functions, such as security, field services, supply chain and operations. The company also takes massive data sets and creates interactive maps, timelines, charts and graphs. When two pressure-cooker bombs were detonated during the Boston Marathon in April 2013, IDV Solutions mapped tweets of the bombing and put out information within seven minutes.

Another leading Michigan company, Lynx Network Group, based in Kalamazoo, plays a major logistical role in big data. “Data isn’t useful unless it can get to people,” explained co-founder Gerald Philipp. “We deliver fiber optics to cell towers to provide faster service.” The company is a major wholesale and retail provider of telecommunication services in the Midwest. It has capitalized on the trend to convert copper infrastructure to fiber optics, which can transmit larger amounts of data faster.

The panelists agreed big data holds great potential for Michigan entrepreneurs and investors. Among the most promising areas are:

Health care: Innovative solutions are needed to provide access to and speed transmission of massive amounts of electronic medical records, connect rural communities with medical technologies and physicians in remote locations and create cloud-based data centers.

Financials: Advanced technologies could help regulatory offices store, replicate and back up critical information and historical records, and enable branch offices of financial firms to connect to cloud-based data storage centers.

Corporations: New products and services are essential to help companies organize and categorize data sets to make information more accessible and useful and enable managers to take a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to collecting, governing and protecting big data.

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