The week ahead: Big Data, teenage sex, and Bridges over Troubled Waters

News editor

Alan Turing is commemorated in a new centre to handle data science, and one of the world’s foremost bridge-builders comes to the UK

Last week’s Budget saw £42m committed over five years to the creation of The Alan Turing Institute for Data Science, a move designed to help Britain ’out-compete, out-smart and out-do the rest of the world.’

According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, the ‘big data’ marketplace could benefit Britain to the tune of £216bn and create 58,000 new jobs by 2017.

Deloitte estimates that the direct value of public sector information to Britain’s economy is around £1.8bn per year, with wider social and economic benefits bringing this up to around £6.8bn.

NESTA state that data-driven companies in the UK are 40 per cent more likely to report launching products and services compared to competitors that haven’t grasped big data.

But what exactly is ‘big data’?

Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University used social media (itself a vast receptacle of data) to describe the term as: ‘…like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.’

The Alan Turing Institute will collect, organise and analyse large sets of data and an event taking place in London tomorrow aims to give attendees further insight into making big data work for them.

The inaugural ‘Big Data: The Value of the Needle in a Haystack of Needles’ will define the term, explain why big data matters and describe how it can be monetised.

Organisers Cambridge Wireless add that the event moves beyond data collection and visualisation to focus on data prediction.

They say: ’With the explosion in available source data and the increasing availability of solutions to gain historical insight in that data, organisations are starting to reap the benefits of big data. Find out what we actually mean by big data: where does it come from and how do we store and process big data to gain insight?

Attendees will further discover how private and public sector organisations are putting big data to use and quantifying the benefits.

The same organisation is holding an all-day event at University College London this Thursday that brings together practitioners from fashion design, material science and wireless technology to address issues surrounding wearable technology in the consumer market.

Wrist and head worn computing devices (smart watches and Google Glass respectively) represent first moves into an era that merges the worlds of technology and fashion for the consumer. Click here to read about the UK’s contribution to this burgeoning industry.

Cambridge Wireless say: ’We will be seeking to challenge assumptions and lay out the opportunities in ‘Fashion Technology’. This event will firstly address the importance and implications of the technology and the engineering behind the product…then explore the true potential of these future devices – desirable apparel and accessories – which provide a range of interactivity solutions with the digital, wireless and on-line world.

Finally, an event taking place in Edinburgh this evening sees bridge design engineer Dr Michel Virlogeux FREng discuss the myriad of projects he’s worked, as well as the direction of future designs and methods of construction.

Dr Virlogeux has designed over 100 bridges in France, including the Ottmarsheim Bridge over the Alsace Canal, the Moulin sur Escaut rail bridge and the Seyssel cable-stayed bridge over the river Rhone. As an independent consulting engineer, he then went on to design the Millau Viaduct and was also the independent assessor for the Vasco de Gama Bridge in Lisbon.

The engineer’s latest project, the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge (aka the Third Bosphorus Bridge) will, on completion next year, be the widest suspension bridge in the world at 59m wide. The bridge’s main 1408m span will allow it to carry eight lanes of motorway and two lanes of railway on the same level, making it the world’s longest span carrying a rail system.

No stranger to spectacular bridges itself, Edinburgh’s Queensferry Crossing is a 2.7km long cable-stayed bridge that will carry a two-lane motorway. It is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Dr Virlogeux will be speaking at the annual Royal Academy of Engineering/Royal Society of Edinburgh joint lecture. Click here to read Stuart Nathan’s 2008 coverage of the of Millau Viaduct project.


The global market for batteries used in wearable electronics will grow more than tenfold in just four years, propelled by portable new products especially suitable for active sports and fitness lifestyles, according to a new report from IHS Technology.

Worldwide revenue for wearable electronics batteries is projected to reach $77m by 2018, up from $6m by year-end in 2014.

This year is said to mark the first time of significant volume for the market, from a virtually non-existent base last year, and revenue will continue to climb very rapidly in the next few years ahead.

By 2018, industry takings will have grown nearly 120 per cent from 2014 levels.

‘Wearable electronics will be the key to sustaining the current very-high-growth levels of battery revenue in consumer electronics,’ said Thomas McAlpine, power supply and storage component analyst for IHS. ‘The tremendous expansion in store will come thanks to an increase in the shipments of smartwatch products, wearable health monitoring devices and smart glasses – products geared toward an active lifestyle combining advanced technological trends in miniature computing with newly smart consumer imperatives in fitness and fashion.’

In all, annual shipments for wearable electronic devices will reach an estimated 56 million units by 2018, fuelling continued demand for the batteries that power these products, Mc Alpine noted.