Intel’s Boyd Davis Talks Predictive Analytics and March Madness

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Every year in offices and dorms throughout the U.S., people  fill out their March Madness NCAA basketball tournament brackets. While the odds on a creating a perfect bracket are astronomical (1 in 18 trillion) Intel has partnered with Kaggle to introduce the March Machine Learning Mania competition, where fans can leverage data analytics to predict the winner. We sat down with Boyd Davis, Vice President of the Data Center Group at Intel, to talk further about this fun and exciting event.

insideBIGDATA: Boyd, can you tell us more about the March Machine Learning Mania?

Boyd Davis: “March Machine Learning Mania” is a competition designed to use big data and predictive analytics to more accurately predict the outcome of the popular men’s college basketball tournament. Participants – members of the Kaggle community – will use predictive models to forecast the outcome of each possible matchup as well as the overall 2014 tournament results. The team with the most accurate predictions will be awarded at $15,000 cash prize following the conclusion of the tournament on April 7, 2014. Anyone who has a passion for data science can become a member of the community by visiting and then enter the competition.

insideBIGDATA: How did the partnership with Kaggle come about?

Boyd Davis: One of the greatest challenges we see is the lack of creativity in using data. Intel’s goal with the competition is to drive more innovative uses for data that then may be applied to other industries such as healthcare or retail. That’s why we chose to team up with Kaggle, the world’s largest community of data scientists, to host this competition. Kaggle’s vast network of some of the best minds in the data science world focusing on demonstrating the impact that big data technology has – including in the sports world. Kaggle is providing competitors in the March Machine Learning Madness competition with twenty years of historical game data broken down by teams, seasons, game by game results, game by game tournament results and seeds. With this type of information at their fingertips, competitors are poised to craft more accurate brackets – getting closer to that one-in-9.2 quintillion chance of predicting the tournament perfectly.

insideBIGDATA: What does the Kaggle technology bring to the table?

Boyd Davis: Intel is providing powerful computing technologies and open software solutions that promise to drive innovation and enable greater insight from Big Data. By teaming up with Kaggle to reach their more than 150,000 data scientists around the world with an expertise from a wide variety of industries, we aim to cultivate their rich network of analytical expertise and encourage creative thinking in data analytics.

insideBIGDATA: This is obviously a fun way to introduce data analytics to a larger audience. What is Intel trying to get across here?

Boyd Davis: Intel’s goal is to encourage more innovative and creative uses for data as well as to demonstrate how big data and analytics technologies are impacting many facets of our daily lives, including sports. For example, coaches and their staffs are using real-time statistics to adjust games on-the-fly and throughout the season. From intelligent cameras to wearable sensors, a massive amount of data is being produced that, if analyzed in real-time, can provide a significant competitive advantage. Intel is among those making big data technologies more affordable, available, and easier to use for everything from helping develop new scientific discoveries and business models to even gaining the upper hand on good-natured predictions of sporting events.

insideBIGDATA: What does Intel have in store for the world of Big Data? What technologies from Intel make sense in this realm?

Boyd Davis: There’s no doubting the tremendous value that big data technologies can bring to businesses, in both time and cost savings. Intel is committed to continuing to deliver innovative products that meet demand and provide smart solutions that maximize the value of big data investments. To streamline this process, Intel recently announced the Intel Data Platform, which maximizes the flexibility for big data processing and enables customizable and tailored approach to extracting insights.

insideBIGDATA: Any predictions as to who might be in the finals, analytics aside?

Boyd Davis: t doesn’t look like my Boilermakers from Purdue University will make it to the field this year, so I can’t put them in the finals.  I’m not sure who will win, but I’ll be rooting for underdogs and the Big 10.

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