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AT&T Inc., Dallas, TX: Nanocubes

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Company: AT&T Inc., Dallas, TX
Company Description: AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile Internet with the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier. The company’s suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world.
Nomination Category: Company / Organization Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Tech Innovation of the Year - At Organizations With More Than 1,000 Employees

Nomination Title: Nanocubes

1. Tell the story about this nominated achievement since January 1 2013 (up to 525 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms. Be sure to mention obstacles overcome, innovations or discoveries made, and outcomes:

Thousands upon thousands of colored brush strokes layered in an incomprehensible flurry compose a beautiful Monet when seen from a distance. Like a Monet, massive data sets are unintelligible until they’re analyzed in both a macro and micro view, highlighting the importance of data visualization technologies. Previously, data visualization systems were not able to maintain the real-time interactivity or scale needed to analyze datasets with millions and billions of data points.

To overcome these challenges, AT&T Labs created nanocubes, a powerful visualization software that provides users with real-time interactivity of massive datasets. Nanocubes provide better tools for spatiotemporal data analysis, allowing users to look at both the macro and micro view of a multi-billion point dataset – all from a computer’s main memory. The technology conserves memory, so datasets with billions of data points can easily be explored on a regular laptop. These queries allow users to examine data on global and granular levels, breaking it down by defining attributes – like flight departure delays – while focusing on precise points in time. Spans of minutes, hours, days or months can also be analyzed.

At the start of development, the researchers at Labs did not have any idea how to begin. However they quickly zeroed in on data cubes, a structure used in the database world to speed queries. Since analysts often care more about the sums and totals, the idea behind the data cube is to arrange the data to make it easy to calculate the answers. For every possible query, a data cube will aggregate all similar data points that make it easy to compute the aggregation counts needed by analysts. Data cubes are meant to speed queries, but do not reduce memory requirements, and are generally too large to fit into the main memory of a typical PC. Enter the dwarf cube, which reduces the memory needed. By storing only aggregation counts, and not the individual records, a dwarf cube conserves memory since an aggregation count takes less memory than actual records. It also avoids empty cells by substituting cells with subsets that exist in the data set.

With these advantages in mind, AT&T Labs created nanocubes by merging dwarf data cubes with the ability to handle spatial, categorical and temporal dimensions. Dwarf data cubes store only the aggregated count of similar data points, which speeds querying and reduces the memory needed. The layered dimensions allow users to explore data by where, what and when it took place.

As part of AT&T’s commitment to drive software into open source and to enable collaboration, the nanocubes software was released into GitHub’s open source community last fall. And, AT&T publicly introduced the technology in October 2013 in a blog post by John Donovan, AT&T’s head of Technology and Network Operations. Additionally, the researchers presented this technology at IEEE VIS 2013, the premier forum for advances in scientific and information visualization, where they received Honorable Mention for the Best Paper at the conference. For anyone curious, a nanocube demo is available using Chrome or Firefox.

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Provide a brief (up to 125 words) biography about the leader of this nominated organization:

John Donovan, senior executive vice president of AT&T Technology and Network Operations, is responsible for the operations of AT&T's technology and global network, including the company's mobile broadband network. After joining AT&T six years ago, Donovan assembled a team of 16 to enhance and accelerate the company’s ability to innovate. This led to the inception of AT&T’s innovation ecosystem, consisting of five AT&T Foundry innovation centers worldwide, The Innovation Pipeline, AT&T Labs and the AT&T Developer Program. Through Donovan’s work, AT&T has deployed more than 100 active projects via the AT&T Foundry, generated more than 25,000 ideas from employees through The Innovation Pipeline, produced eight Nobel prizes from the AT&T Labs, created more than 1,000 prototypes of apps, and more.