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By Eric Sondergeld, LIMRA

Last week in Cambridge, MA, LIMRA hosted its inaugural Big Data Analytics Conference. Looking beyond the "big data" buzz word this event focused on the analytics that companies are applying to data to improve their business results. The Boston area is quickly developing a reputation as the hub for all things related to big data.

The conference program had three main elements:

Highlights from the presentations included:

Keynote speaker Harvard Law professor Jonathon Zittrain discussed big questions about big data, including the question of where the data will reside in the future. Will it reside intra-company, in data mines, or with the individual?

Anand Rao from PWC was the first of several speakers to recommend thinking about the questions before thinking about the data. He also shared several real-life examples of big data used in innovative ways. One example is how a South African insurer is underwriting based on a concept called "vitality age" which recalculates policy premiums annually and encourages people to live well.

In a presentation about privacy, Sheila Colclasure from Acxiom reminded us that we create a vast cloud of digital dust every time we go out into the world. She pointed out that even non-personally identifiable information is held to a higher standard if it is tied to personally identifiable information.

Closing Speaker MIT professor Sam Madden discussed the need for hypothesis-free analysis where it's not necessary to think of possible answers to test. He shared examples of tools they're developing to help organizations analyze massive amounts of data.

LIMRA is currently planning an even bigger and better event for 2015, likely in the Boston area in June. Stay tuned for details and we hope to see you there.

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