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Big Data Hub Gets a Spoke: NSF Funds Western Region Big Data Challenge Approach

SDSC to Help Create Real-Time Data Sensor System for Metropolitan Infrastructures

Published October 4, 2016

Four primary sources of data to be channeled into MetroInsight, including some of the priority datasets provided by public or private partners (e.g., San Diego power outage data from SDG&E).

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced funding to establish ‘Big Data Spokes’ extending from the four Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs (BD Hubs), including one in which researchers at UC San Diego, UC Los Angeles, and Arizona State University will lead a regional effort to create a real-time system to support metropolitan infrastructures through data-driven analytics, effective workforce development, and policy support.

Called MetroInsight, the project will focus initially on urban data collected from metropolitan infrastructure, including sensor data for traffic, energy use, water quality, and air pollution. Rather than directing research, MetroInsight, like other BD Spokes, will convene stakeholders, engage end-users and solution providers, and form multidisciplinary teams to tackle challenges no single field alone can solve.

“The NSF is counting on the Western Hub to pull together major data stakeholders across this region to produce targeted interventions and get on the same page for sharing critical data from environmental and other sources,” said UC San Diego Computer Science and Engineering Professor Rajesh Gupta, principal investigator for the MetroInsight project.

In November 2015, the NSF estab­lished four regional Big Data Innovation Hubs throughout the U.S. The Western region is comprised of 13 states with Montana, Colorado, and New Mexico marking the eastern boundary. Principal investigators for the Western Big Data Innovation Hub (WBDIH) include Michael Norman, director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego. The Hub’s purpose is to con­nect, educate, incubate and facilitate multi-state, multi-sector partnerships in the area of big data innovation.

Each BD Hub fosters multi­-sector collaborations among academia, industry, and government, while bringing together a wide range of big data stakeholders to solve regional challenges. Each Big Data Spoke (BD Spoke) announced this week by the NSF will work on a challenge that requires big data innovations.

The MetroInsight project is one of 10 regional projects funded today by the NSF in the northeastern, southern, midwestern, and western parts of the U.S. In addition to $10 million awarded to the 10 BD Spokes projects, NSF will make available another $1 million across all of them for planning efforts and Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) awards to support efforts targeted at the nation’s big data innovation ecosystem. The total $11 million in funding to BD Spokes represents 10 percent of the amount NSF will invest in fiscal 2017 in Big Data research.

“The BD Spokes advance the goals and regional priorities of each BD Hub, fusing the strengths of a range of institutions and investigators and applying them to problems that affect the communities and populations within their regions,” said Jim Kurose, assistant director of NSF for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “We are pleased to be making this substantial investment today to accelerate the nation’s big data R&D innovation ecosystem.”

MetroInsight aims to go beyond the deluge of all types of urban data from sensor by developing new models and methods to transform all of that information into population-level data suitable for dynamic processing, real-time monitoring and visualization.

“We will also implement a workforce development plan by training the next generation of data scientists to analyze complex and subtle spatiotemporal dynamics of interdependent urban networks that are always changing,” said Ilkay Altintas, Chief Data Science Officer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego and a co-PI for the new project.

MetroInsight foresees developing online courses on sensor data analytics, and Altintas will be teaching the capstone class in the Computer Science and Engineering Department’s new Data Science M.S. program in the winter and spring quarters.

“We envision at least two sets of capstone projects to be mentored by MetroInsight researchers,” she said. “Training teams will have access to metropolitan sensor data and the predictive models to better understand the city infrastructure and sensitivity to hazards, population changes, and development.”

According to PI Gupta, “MetroInsight provides an ideal platform for capstone projects not just in the recently launched MAS program in Data Sciences and Engineering, but also in the upcoming Data Sciences undergraduate major that UC San Diego is getting ready to launch.”

“The handling of such information using predictive modeling is a natural first step to gain insight and generate more value out of investments for data collection,” said co-PI Mani Srivastava, professor of electrical engineering at UCLA. “It opens the way to evidence-based decision making when managing our cities and improving social welfare.”

Srivastava will also lead work on Managing Information Privacy and Policy Constraints, one of 10 ‘work packages’ to be developed by PIs and senior personnel. Researchers will also develop a Federated Data Collection and Management System (led by SDSC’s Altintas).

Altintas is also PI on the NSF-funded WIFIRE cyberinfrastructure project to improve emergency detection and response to wildfires in the San Diego region. WIFIRE’s archive of wildfire imagery and environmental information gathered through the HPWREN network of weather stations and mountain-top cameras in fire-prone areas of southern California is one of the major data sources on which MetroInsight will rely for monitoring weather and hazards in outlying metro areas.

Building a ‘system of systems’ to monitor the interconnected urban networks, MetroInsight pulls in scientists and policy-makers from area agencies that are sources of metro data from California and Arizona, while also having a stake in the four target sectors – energy, water, transportation, as well as weather and hazards – that will drive the project’s research. The universities involved in MetroInsight will collaborate closely with the cities of San Diego, Los Angeles and Carlsbad, San Diego’s city-university partnership (part of the nationwide MetroLab Network), the San Diego and Los Angeles Fire Departments, as well as L.A. Water and Power, among other agencies.  

Other faculty participating in MetroInsight will include UC San Diego Computer Science and Engineering Professor Julian McAuley, UCLA Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Rajit Gadh, and Arizona State University Research Scientist Shade Shutters.

In addition to metro public and emergency-response agencies, MetroInsight will also collaborate with industry partners including Qualcomm, Dell, and OSIsoft.

About SDSC

As an Organized Research Unit of UC San Diego, SDSC is considered a leader in data-intensive computing and cyberinfrastructure, providing resources, services, and expertise to the national research community, including industry and academia. Cyberinfrastructure refers to an accessible, integrated network of computer-based resources and expertise, focused on accelerating scientific inquiry and discovery. SDSC supports hundreds of multidisciplinary programs spanning a wide variety of domains, from earth sciences and biology to astrophysics, bioinformatics, and health IT. SDSC’s Comet joins the Center’s data-intensive Gordon cluster, and are both part of the National Science Foundation’s XSEDE (Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment) program.