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April 30, 2014

States Investing in Big Data Initiatives

George Leopold

Regional competition to take the lead in big data innovation is heating up. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is launching a $3 million open cloud project aimed at creating a public cloud-computing infrastructure that could be used to boost university and industry big data efforts.

The Massachusetts Open Cloud project is part of a push by Governor Deval Patrick to promote big data innovation in Massachusetts. Patrick launched the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative in 2012. Once a leader in computer and electronics technology along its Route 128 corridor, the commonwealth is seeking a technology revival though a series of cloud and big data initiatives.

Patrick also released a big data report on April 25 that highlights growing collaboration between Massachusetts’ universities, technology companies and state government agencies. “Through continued investments and support for this growing industry we are positioning ourselves to take the lead on big data,” Governor Patrick said in a statement.

The big data report also recommended expanding access to open and public data, extending the commonwealth’s big data ecosystem and placing greater emphasis on data science education and training.

Meanwhile, the Open Cloud project has attracted the commonwealth’s top universities, including Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts.

Efforts to promote big data research are focused at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke. The Open Cloud hardware platform is based at the Center.

Open Cloud industry partners include Brocade, Cisco Systems, EMC, Intel, Juniper Networks and Red Hat.

Massachusetts claims to be the home of more than 100 companies focusing on big data and applications, which collectively employ about 12,000 workers. “Big data is poised to be the next major technological wave and Massachusetts is well positioned to take the lead,” Tom Hopcroft, president and CEO of the Mass Technology Leadership Council, said in a statement.

“Big data analytics is creating an inflection point for technology innovation, investment and growth,” added Chris Lynch, a partner at Atlas Venture and a member of the Big Data Consortium’s organizing committee.

The big data report found that the global big data market is expected to top $48 billion by 2017, up from $11.6 billion in 2012. While hardware and services are expected to continue to account for the greatest share of revenue, the fastest growing sector is likely to be big data-enabled applications such as health care, life sciences, and financial services.

While Massachusetts appears to have one of the most comprehensive strategies for promoting big data innovation, other states also are using the technology for applications like controlling health care costs. For example, a two-year-old data-sharing initiative mandated by the State of Washington yielded a 10 percent decline in the number of unnecessary emergency room visits by Medicaid recipients.

The state’s Emergency Department Information Exchange has so far resulted in a 9.9 percent decline in ER visits by Medicaid patients, according to a recent report.