A couple of weeks ago, I – along with five of my colleagues – went to the 2014 FutureDecoded Tech Day at the Excel in London.
The event’s website explains that “the future of business is intertwined with technology” and goes on to say “think of the rise of tablets, convenience of flexible working and growth of big data analytics; we’re already seeing them in the workplace – imagine the advances we will see in the years ahead.”
No arguments here. Events such as these are great for providing a broader industry context to our work and also offer the chance to gain insights that we can take back to our day jobs in the office.
What about the day itself? Well, it was mix of inspiration, getting your geek on and – it has to be said – a healthy dose of self-promotion. But when I think back to all the stuff that was on offer and the fact that admission free, it really was a great offering by Microsoft.
The day was broken into two parts: keynotes by various speakers in the morning and then smaller technical sessions in the afternoon made up of several different tracks of interest (each of these were planned to be separate to each other as it was anticipated that you would not want to change tracks midway through).
I found two out of the four morning keynotes of real interest and inspiration, the first by Nigel Shadbolt from the Open Data Institute and the second from the physicist Brian Cox.
Nigel Shadbolt really explored the boundaries of what we’re doing with information. One particularly striking example was when he showed how data was being used to track natural disasters in countries without complicated technology. This made me think about how we at Qube Global Software can use our existing data and how we can collect further information in the future. Brian Cox, on the other hand, was far more intense but equally interesting – although you’ll have to take my word for it as he talked in-depth about so many subjects that it would be difficult for me to go into enough detail to do his session any justice here!
In the afternoon I decided to attend the Demystifying Data Discovery & Big Data technical track. Sessions included:
- Data Science inside Microsoft Research with Kenji Takeda: this talk showed how Microsoft research is allowing it to cross-pollinate information between its own products (e.g. how information from image recognition in Kinect is being used in the Bing image search).
- Changing the game – an agnostic hybrid approach to big data integration with James Rowland-Jones: This talk showed how data warehousing technology is changing to be enhanced so that their technologies can interacts with 3rd party solutions such as Hadoop. Allowing our solutions to interact with others
- Transforming and Analysis with Power BI with Chris Webb: this session contained an overview of the Power BI product group – Query, View, Map and Q&A. It included a great demo illustrating how easy it was to envision house price data from the Land Registry (e.g. transformation in Power Query and visualisations in Power Map and mini dashboard in Power View). The demo also showed how simple setting up data stories with Power Map by storing multiple viewpoints is, then playing a movie going to each map location.
All very informative and inspiring, with lots of great information to take back with us to the office. Thanks Microsoft UK!
Paul Blackwell is a Product Consultant for Qube Global Software’s Horizon solution.