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Caterpillar Opens New Data Analysis Lab At U Of I Research Park

Caterpillar, University of Illinois and Champaign officials cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the Caterpillar Data Innovation Lab.

Caterpillar, U of I and Champaign city officials cut a ceremonial ribbon Thursday to mark the opening of Caterpillar's Data Innovation Lab at the University of Illinois Research Park in Champaign. (Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media)

Caterpillar cut the ribbon Thursday on a new data analysis lab at the University of Illinois Research Park in Champaign.

The facility is meant to be the first of several the company will open to use data analysis for research and development.

Caterpillar already does data analysis at various sites in the Peoria area, where the company is based. But with the new “data innovation lab”, Caterpillar wants to use data collected primarily from sensors embedded in Cat equipment --- to improve its products and operations.  Data Innovation Lab manager Josh Edwards says the lab will rely on a labor pool the University of Illinois has an amble supply of … students.

“So, if you look at the staffing model here at the lab, it’s going to be staffed by three Caterpillar employees and approximately 18 students”, said Edwards. “And the students are going to make up the majority of the work force, helping us innovate, get the diverse perspective, work on data analytics for us.”

The Data Innovation Lab will build on work done at the simulation center Caterpillar has operated at the U of I Research Park for the past 15 years.

Cat’s Chief Technology Officer Gwenne Henricks says the company will open other data innovation labs in communities that offer similar “pockets of talent and pockets activity. She says it’s unlikely the labs will specialize in particular areas, “because, by the nature of innovation, we’re going to want to take advantage of everything that will come out of these relationships”.