Big Data collaborative projects with AkzoNobel

AkzoNobel is a Eur15B company active in the fields of decorative paints, performance coatings and speciality chemicals.  The Centre was approached by a senior scientist in their ship paint division who had heard about the CDT, and was interested in working with the students to see if it was possible to extract value from the vast amounts of data they held on:

a) the position of every ship worldwide every 15 minutes

b) information on which of those ships had been coated using AkzoNobel paints.

This was a challenging task requiring a combination of scalable computing and statistical methods.

As a result, it was directly in the area of focus of the CDT and so the problem was selected as the topic for a group project. Four students from a mix of backgrounds analysed the data in the cloud over the course of eight weeks, producing results that could be used by AkzoNobel’s marketing and scientific divisions. To present the complex data in an understandable way, data visualisation and animation techniques were used extensively by the CDT students.

The company was so impressed with the results that they invited the students to present to senior staff in the organisation. As a result, they are continuing to develop the project in-house. To enable this, one of the CDT students – Hollie Johnson – developed and delivered a visualisation training course to the AkzoNobel team.

Having seen great value in linking with the CDT, the company has now become a major sponsor, and there are plans for another group project, and proposals for individual student projects with the company in 2017.

A digital economy network for PhD students in CDTs funded by EPSRC

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