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Big data project gets big welcome in Mass.

New center will look at analyzing massive amounts of data.

Continuing an effort to propel Massachusetts as an innovation and technology leader, Gov. Deval Patrick announced yesterday an initiative to support the collection and analysis of "big data."

The creation of the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative coincides with the launch of a new Intel-backed center for big data at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Collecting and analyzing big data has the potential to create better products and services and solve societal problems, those in the technology sector said.

Big data research at the new MIT lab will focus on finance, medicine, social media and security.

Sam Madden, the director of MIT's new big data initiative said big data recently helped create a route-mapping program after data was collected from cars and drivers' smartphones as they navigated Cambridge streets and measured potholes.

Madden said he was excited by the new attention to the field because he's seen many MIT students leave Boston for the West Coast to work for startup and other technology firms. He hoped the center would keep students here to innovate rather than go west.

"Big data requires a new generation of technology," said Daniela Rus, the director of CSAIL. "It will have a huge impact in all aspects of our economy."

A report released this year by the Mass Technology Leadership Council said the world is "drowning in digital data," which presents a major market opportunity for the state.

Growth in big data sectors could add 50,000 jobs to the state by 2018, according to the report.

Intel is backing its new big data center at MIT with a promise of $2.5 million annually for the next five years. Patrick said that the state's initiative would include a grant program devoted to big data and a big data internship program.