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Imperial College Business School Deepens Big Data Ties With KPMG

New observatory for big data forms part of £20m investment

Tue Nov 3 2015

Imperial College Business School on Tuesday launched an observatory for big data, enabling people to visualize everything from global cryptocurrency transactions to commuter movements on the Shanghai metro.

The joint venture with KPMG deepens the school’s expertise in big data, and forms part of a £20 million investment from the professional services firm which saw last year the launch of the KPMG Center For Advanced Business Analytics on Imperial’s London campus.

Researchers and companies will work together using the observatory to analyze and visualize big data, generating insights to help businesses improve their products and services and to stay competitive. 

Researchers will also be using the observatory to better understand areas such as online fraud, climate change and the solar system.

Alwin Magimay, head of digital and analytics at KPMG UK, said that businesses are tackling the enormity and complexity of big data, but many are struggling to uncover the insights they need.

“We are in the silent movie-era of big data, with colour and sound yet to materialize. By finding better ways of visualising and analysing their data, companies will be able to unlock profitability, and unleash new waves of growth and innovation.”

The launch comes as Imperial, like many top business schools, places a big bet on big data, with the incorporation of data analytics into its MBA programs and launch of an MSc in Business Analytics program last year.

Dr Mark Kennedy, director of the KPMG Centre for Business Analytics, said: “We’re already using data visualizations to teach people to identify critical events in complex live data streams — from money laundering to hack attacks in live markets.

“This is just the beginning of exciting developments that will accelerate much wider use of data sets that are otherwise hard to understand.”

The largest of its kind in Europe, the KPMG Data Observatory features an enveloping circular wall of 64 monitors with 313 degrees of surround vision, powered by 32 computers.

It has immense data processing capacity, allowing users to see data patterns up close. The bank of screens can be reconfigured into five separate sections, allowing users to work on multiple projects in the same space.

The project has been designed, built by and housed within Imperial’s Data Science Institute, which aims to put the UK at the forefront of data science.

By enabling researchers and businesses to visualise complex data sets, the observatory will provide new insights into markets, customers and services, said Professor G Anandalingam, dean of Imperial College Business School.

He added: “Big data is changing the way everyone operates and for businesses to compete in a globalized economy they need to be able to make sense of all the valuable information that is being generated.”

For KPMG the partnership highlights the firm’s desire to harness the power of analytics to drive performance across its business units — audit, tax and advisory.

The firm has in recent years announced a deal with Formula One’s McLaren to use predictive analytics in its audit work, and spent £40 million on developing cloud software that enables clients to prepare their accounts online.