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Partnership with tech startup will train students in ‘Big Data’

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Students at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay will benefit from a new institutional partnership with Green Bay-based technology firm Aver Informatics that will bring hands-on opportunities with “Big Data” and advanced data analytics to the Computer Science curriculum.

Aver Informatics, a startup company with national clients in the fast-developing field of health care analytics, has agreed to donate to  the University a three-year license for the company’s proprietary Big Data Analytics Platform.

Along with free remote access to the software and databases, Aver will train students in use of the platform and make company server space available for student work on faculty-supervised course assignments. The data will be identity-stripped health care industry data accessible through remote networks and “the cloud,” with no data housed on UW-Green Bay servers.

Julia Wallace, UW-Green Bay’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Kurt Brenkus, Aver Informatics CEO, will sign a memorandum of understanding at 1:30 p.m. Friday (March 28) in the 1965 Room of the University Union.

Associate Prof. Peter Breznay, chairman of the Computer Science program, says the partnership is part of a larger effort to expand the University’s offerings in data science to meet both student and employer demand. Career opportunities are expanding, he says, as industries seek to improve product development, marketing and strategic planning by way of harnessing “Big Data” — data streams so massive and complex that the volume and variety are beyond the capacity of traditional database management tools.

“The partnership with Aver allows our students to work with a current, state-of-the-art product and dynamic databases, and to test existing algorithms and experiment with new ones,” Breznay says.

“This sort of software can be worth hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars to the companies that purchase these services. The tech industry needs people with advanced skills to develop these tools, and the companies that make that level of investment need people who have the technical and problem-solving ability to analyze data, spot trends, direct research and contribute to better decision-making. And that’s where our students enter the picture.”

UW-Green Bay students involved with the program will also learn about governance and storage issues including data privacy, security and integrity.

Breznay notes that Big Data is increasing important nationally in the health care and insurance sectors. He says the prominence of Northeastern Wisconsin companies in those industries could spur additional interest in the UW-Green Bay Computer Science program and its graduates.

Computer Science currently enrolls about 115 majors, and graduates about 15 students per year.

Aver Informatics has a patent pending for its product’s user-friendly design tools that both generate queries to support any analytics methodology and encourage users to design their own analytics. The company also provides consulting services to support customized analytics.

Brenkus, Aver’s CEO, says the partnership with UW-Green Bay “represents education for a new paradigm.”

“Data collection and analysis is radically changing our orientation to the people, places and things around us,” Brenkus says. “Together UWGB and Aver Informatics are embracing this new era of innovation and change… to help students create deep insights into the world around them.”

The complimentary three-year license for UW-Green Bay includes cloud access to the current Aver Platform, all future updates, and maintenance, installation and configuration services. UW-Green Bay students and faculty will share the results of any research and algorithms with the company.

Experts say algorithms for analyzing Big Data are evolving, as users struggle to cope with an increasing flood of information from a growing number of sources: online user-input data, computer-generated log data, supplemental databases accessible from external sources and the web, and a rapidly expanding network of remote electronic sensors now commonly embedded in strategic locations, products or systems.

Rajeev Bukralia, UW-Green Bay’s associate provost and chief information officer, has written about Big Data for national and international publications. Data science professionals capable of writing algorithms effective in sifting the voluminous data flow for meaningful patterns, he says, are in demand because organizations are then able to develop predictive, prescriptive, and optimization models to address a variety of problems.

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