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Rationale for Creation

The Acadia Institute for Data Analytics is proposed in response to the growing demand for expertise, products and services for discovering knowledge from data in problem domains of rural Canada.

What is Data Analytics?

Data analytics covers a broad spectrum, including data management, mathematical, statistical and machine learning methods for data modeling, and techniques for data visualization in support of enterprise-wide decision making. This emerging field is being driven by the unprecedented amount of data now available to organizations. With the emergence of “Big Data”, there is a pressing need for professionals with strong quantitative skills and an understanding of how analytics can be applied with speed and accuracy to the critical decisions facing organizations.

Rural Canada – Feeding our Nation and the World

Rural Canada feeds our nation literally, economically, and environmentally.  It provides the food, fiber, minerals, water and other bio-resources and natural resources on which our urban centers depend.  It also houses the arteries of transportation that supply these vital resources to locations across Canada and to the world.  Rural Canada has provided significantly to Canada’s GDP in the last 100 years and will do so into the next 100 years.  Perhaps more importantly, how we access and use the bio- and natural resources directly affects local communities and our planet.

Why is Data Analytics Important to Rural Canada?

In Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada approximately 45% of the population live in rural areas (400,000 and 2.3 million people, respectively). The success of rural Canada and our nation, in general, over the next 50 years, both economically and environmentally, will depend largely on how well we manage while producing product from our bio- and natural resources on land, in the water and in the air.   To do this we must better collect, integrate, analyze and disseminate data on how we extract/produce, process, manufacture and distribute related products and services.   Fortunately, we are now entering an era of data capture, analysis and sharing that is unprecedented in human history – the era of Big Data and Data Analytics.

Data are being created at unimaginable rates that will only continue to increase. Billions of new users will be connecting to the Internet over the next few years with more and smarter devices, driving online transactions, and data-based products and services. The flow of digital information within and among businesses is also growing rapidly. Many companies are integrating sensors into their products and processes, creating new sources of high-volume data flow.  These devices are appearing on shop and office floors, farm equipment, food processing plants, and in buildings, vehicles, and even clothing.  All these data hold tremendous potential value. Organizations and countries that can identify, collect, prepare, filter and analyze these data effectively will gain new knowledge and business/strategic advantages.  This move toward real-time, data-driven processes is fueling a revolution in the way organizations operate internally and interact externally. Customer relationship management and online sales and marketing represent the first wave of data analytics integration, but
the potential for integration spans the full spectrum of organizational management —from production and service optimization, sales forecasting, human resource planning, and inventory management, to tactical agricultural activities, the prediction of energy production and use, and the modeling of environmental factors and outcomes.  The challenges are daunting, but the opportunities are enormous.

A Pillar of the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre – Incubation and Innovation Services

The Acadia Institute for Data Analytics will be part of the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre’s Incubation and Innovation Services unit. This Centre is focused on three theme area, namely tidal, agri-food/wine, and ICT), and the Acadia Institute for Data will anchor the ICT theme.  Data analytics nicely spans a number of activities that are underway in the tidal and agri-food/wine areas.   And young ICT companies being nurtured in the Entrepreneurship Centre, such as Colibri Software,  have interests in applied data analytics.  The greater Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre has and will continue to facilitate advances in the agri-food, green energy, tourism and the environmental areas, which will be key initial areas of focus for AIDA.

Interdisciplinary Nature of Collaborative Work

Work in data analytics is interdisciplinary, by its very nature.  Knowledge of one or more application domains along with expertise in mathematics and computer science are required to capture, integrate and process data into information. As an example, a group at Acadia has envisioned the development of inexpensive technology developed by our physics department that can capture tidal data that can be integrated and analyzed by our mathematical modeling and machine learning groups for our tidal energy team. 

External Connections, Partners, and Industry Engagement

The Institute will connect curriculum and research across the campus and with other academic institutions, industry partners and associations.   The Institute will work collaboratively with similar bodies in Canada, in particular the Institute for Big Data Analytics at Dalhousie University and with St. Mary’s University initiatives in data analytics.  For example, Acadia and Dalhousie are the founding members of the Nova Scotia Data Analytics Network (NSDAN). AIDA will also collaborate closely with the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre, located in Kentville, and the NSCC’s Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS), in Lawrencetown. These connections will make the Institute attractive to a wide variety of businesses, organizations and associations.