As technology and connectivity improve, researchers are able to access or generate bigger and bigger datasets…

According to Gartner’s definition big data is “is high-volume, high-velocity and/or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision making, and process automation.” [1] The availability of big data drives research into new techniques, algorithms, and technologies to facilitate data analysis, modeling, visualisation, interpretation and storage.

The Internet of Things (IoT) can be defined as a “network of physical objects - devices, vehicles, buildings and other items - embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data” [2]. In January 2016 Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy from the UK, announced a new interdisciplinary Research Hub which would drive forward UK research in the Internet of Things. The consortium of nine UK universities will be studying critical issues such as privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability, and security over a three-year period.  The consortium received GBP 8.9 million and will contribute a further GBP 14 million through the partners to support the various studies. We wanted to see what is currently happening in this research space at the North-West University.


On 2 March 2016 17 researchers and IT professionals from the NWU came together to evaluate the status of research related to Big Data and Internet of Things (BD & IoT) at the university. The workshop included round table discussions about various projects that are in the planning phase or already in progress, tools and technologies that are currently being used, and obstacles that are blocking progress with BD & IoT projects in various research groups.  Participants did not include researchers who work in areas that generate big data such as genomics for example, but only focussed on researchers who are working in the solution space - those who could enable other researchers to harness the power of BD & IoT. The workshop included both Big Data and Internet of Things which led to discussions about the appropriateness of the combination of topics - for more on this see the post by Tamara Dull from SAS titled Big data and the Internet of Things: Two sides of the same coin? [3].


The outcomes of the workshop, which was initiated by members of the Faculty of Engineering and eResearch, was summarised in a report available to NWU staff [4]. We are also currently conducting a survey from which a dashboard of capabilities will be developed.  The final results will be published on the eResearch website and could be used to attract collaborators, funding and new projects to the university.

If you are affiliated with NWU and interested or involved in Big Data and Internet of Things research, please help us by completing the survey available at [5]. We value your input.