One of our biggest assets here at DHISCO is the data we collect and process for billions of hotel bookings around the world. But like so many other companies in the digital age, we find turning all that information into business intelligence to be one of our biggest undertakings.

We also know data mining is just the thing university students need to engage with in order to better understand today’s complex business environments. That’s why I am excited to announce that DHISCO once again is partnering with the University of North Texas for its Big Data Challenge.

We helped UNT launch the first such contest at the end of 2015, giving students more than 14 terabytes of raw hospitality data and challenging them to create next-generation tools for analyzing international travel and hotel booking trends.

They did not disappoint. More 100 students on 28 teams used sophisticated tools to produce valuable real-world insights for the hospitality industry on data mining and market innovation.

This year’s challenge promises to be even bigger and better as UNT opens the competition to students across all disciplines. More than 200 are expected to participate in this year’s event. Sabre Hospitality Solutions is joining us by also providing data for the students.

The raw data is scrubbed of any personal or competitive information. The students are given a choice of which company’s information to use, then set loose for eight weeks to turn into it into creative and useful intelligence.

Although many great minds in our industry are on the constant hunt for efficient ways to translate data into useful tools, we know some of the most creative ideas are sparked by fresh, young minds who apply increasingly sophisticated ideas and technological skills to the task.

In our first data challenge, a team of computer science students won Best in Show and took home $1,500 for creating dashboards that showed hotel-specific rate and booking information as broader industry trends.

Other entries included an analysis of reservation cancellations and modifications, a dashboard to determine when and where to advertise to best target specific audiences and a parsing of data that showed how group sizes impact lengths of stay.

I was absolutely blown away by the students’ efforts in the first Big Data Challenge. I can’t wait to see what an even broader field of students working on data from different industries can generate this time around.

– Toni Portmann