Georgia Tech and UNC to lead effort that applies big data solutions to regional challenges

November 2nd, 2015
The Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina's Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) will co-direct a new, national effort to develop a Big Data Regional Innovation Hub serving 16 southern states and the District of Columbia.

The South Big Data Regional Innovation Hub (South BD Hub)—to be managed jointly by Georgia Tech and UNC-Chapel Hill—is part of the National Science Foundation's four Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs (BD Hubs) announced today. The new initiative aims to build innovative public-private partnerships that address regional challenges through big data analysis.

"The award of the South Big Data Regional Innovation Hub to Georgia Tech and UNC-Chapel Hill provides the right context for collaboration among 75 stakeholders in academia, industry and the nonprofit sectors, which will allow us to—for the first time—address large-scale challenges facing many southern states," said Srinivas Aluru, co-principal investigator at Georgia Tech and professor in the School of Computational Science and Engineering. "Data science touches all aspects of the human experience, and the Hub will enable us to bring data together in a complementary way for better problem solving in our communities. It already is initiating new collaboration and dialogue among many large stakeholders in a way that would not have happened otherwise."

Each of the NSF BD Hubs will engage businesses and research organizations in their region to develop common big data goals that would be impossible for individual members to achieve alone. The Hubs will develop community-driven governance structures as well as "spoke projects" based on regional priorities and partnerships.

"The important problems of our time—from solving disparities in health care to understanding the risks of coastal storms and floods—involve making sense of massive amounts of data," said Ashok Krishnamurthy, deputy director at RENCI and co-principal investigator with Aluru on the South BD Hub project. "The chance to lead this project with Georgia Tech means we will be at the forefront of using data for the public good."

The South BD Hub will serve the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. It will be developed in three phases: an initial bootstrap phase that will establish the basic governance structure; a transitional phase that will move toward an operational structure; and a final operational phase. It will have dual locations in Atlanta and the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, with co-executive directors who will be accountable to Hub partners.

Initial spokes of the South BD Hub will aim to apply big data analysis to scientific and social issues in five areas:

  • Health Care, including disparities in health, access to health care, and health outcomes, precision medicine, and health analytics.
  • Coastal Hazards, including understanding and mitigating the consequences of natural and manmade disasters.
  • Industrial Big Data, including cyberphysical systems, the Internet of Things, data-driven management of physical infrastructure, and power generation, transmission, and distribution from a variety of sources.
  • Materials and Manufacturing, including data-driven contributions to the materials genome initiative and bridging the gap between materials science and manufacturing practice.
  • Habitat Planning, including urban infrastructure, smart cities efforts, transportation, rural-urban infrastructure, and wildlife habitat and conservation.


Aluru said Georgia Tech will host national data repositories and provide big data transfer capabilities through Southern Crossroads (SoX), a non-profit founded by Georgia Tech and partners and recognized as one the highest-bandwidth Internet gateways in the South—connecting 21 member institutions and universities. Georgia Tech also is preparing to build a multi-story, 750,000-square-foot building in the heart of Atlanta devoted to data science and high-performance computing for centralized collaboration among industry, academia and government. Through existing assets such as SoX and planned infrastructure underway, Georgia Tech will provide unprecedented regional and national connectivity.

The South BD Hub team will put to use lessons learned in developing the National Consortium for Data Science, a public-private partnership to address big data issues launched by RENCI in 2013, as Georgia Tech and RENCI develop the Hub's governance structure and programs. In addition, RENCI will leverage its expertise in technology and software development to manage big data sharing within the South BD Hub and collaboration with other regional hubs, Krishnamurthy said.

"The BD Hubs program represents a unique approach to improving the impact of data science by establishing partnerships among likeminded stakeholders," said Jim Kurose, NSF's head of Computer and Information Science and Engineering. "In doing so, it enables teams of data science researchers to come together with domain experts, with cities and municipalities, and with anchor institutions to establish and grow collaborations that will accelerate progress in a wide range of science and education domains with the potential for great societal benefit."

Initial NSF funding for the South BD Hub will be $1.25 million over three years. In addition to the South BD Hub, the NSF has funded Hubs in the Northeast, Midwest, and Western U.S., which are managed by universities in those regions.

Provided by Georgia Institute of Technology

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