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Center devoted to challenges of ‘big data’ adds international partner

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A research center established by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Drexel University to meet challenges posed by huge amounts of information – or big data – has added a research site in Finland.

The Center for Visual and Decision Informatics (CVDI) works with government, industry and academia to develop next-generation tools and techniques that help decision makers improve how they analyze and interpret large volumes of data. It was established in 2012 and is supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) program.

Tampere University of Technology (TUT) in southern Finland has been named the first international site of CVDI. Finland joins an elite list of countries that participate in NSF’s I/UCRC program, such as India, Belgium, and Germany.

CVDI is one of only a handful of NSF I/UCRCs with a focus on big data, and it is one of only five NSF I/UCRCs in the nation with an international partner.

About a dozen private companies and government agencies are members of CVDI, including Johnson and Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Thomson & Reuters, IMS Health, CGI, Microsoft Research, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, and Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum. They contribute funds that support the center and, in turn, have access to leading edge developments in visual and decision informatics.

Three Finnish companies – Tieto Finland Oy, M-Brain Insight Oy and Microsoft Mobile – have become the newest CVDI members.

“This partnership will provide members access to a wider and deeper array of research projects, greater ability to tap into technical expertise of new faculty, and the ability to collaborate with international industry members,” said Brian Richmond, CVDI Industry Advisory Board chairman. He represents Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum as chief technology officer. “The challenges University and industry members seek to address impact the global marketplace.”

The TUT site will be led by Dr. Moncef Gabbouj, an Academy of Finland professor in the Department of Signal Processing. He leads a large team of researchers in the area of multimedia communication whose work complements and strengthens CVDI’s core research.

DIGILE, one of Finland’s Strategic Centers for Science, Technology and Innovation, will provide support for Finland’s participation in CVDI, including research at TUT. DIGILE brings together academic and commercial projects and organizations to foster productive collaboration. It also supports innovation with common frameworks and resources.

DIGILE spearheaded the addition of TUT as an international site. Through DIGILE, CVDI members may have access to potential funding sources in Europe, according to Dr. Pauli Kuosmanen, CEO of DIGILE.

One of the proposed joint USA-Finland research efforts is entitled “Big Data Analysis in Social Media Applications.” It will enable junior researcher exchanges among UL Lafayette, Drexel University and TUT.

UL Lafayette and Drexel researchers, faculty and students will benefit from the partnership with TUT because they will have a broader knowledge base.

The international partnership will also enhance the intellectual property that results from CVDI’s research. In the past two years, the center has completed 10 projects that generated 36 discoveries that could potentially earn patents.

“Our intellectual property assets add an undeniable value to the reputation of the Center, as they demonstrate our exceptional, groundbreaking research in developing solutions to our world’s most pressing big data challenges,” said Dr. Xiaohua Tony Hu, a professor at Drexel University and co-director of CVDI. “We look forward to capitalizing upon this success and expanding our scope of intellectual property opportunities with the establishment of our international site in Finland.”

Researchers at other Finnish universities may also join the TUT site as associate faculty researchers.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is also a potential CVDI partner. It has received a planning grant from NSF and intends to hold a meeting to recruit industry members and researchers.

Dr. Vijay Raghavan, CVDI director, said the international partnership with TUT will greatly benefit students working on CVDI projects by providing the highest quality of international research exposure. “This will advance their research careers in terms of understanding the global context of industry-relevant, big data research and creating opportunities to network with their peers to build future collaborations.”

Photo information:

Nicholas Lipari, a doctoral student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, works on a project for the national Center for Visual and Decision Informatics. He is using 3-D technology to make big data useful. His goal is to create a way to monitor real-time data so the user can make decisions based on that information.

Photo by Doug Dugas