Data systems transform raw data into valuable and actionable data for various industries and applications. They include all technologies involved in collecting data and processing it, storing it, and transmitting it. Hardware switches, software storage devices, switches, and interconnection mechanisms comprise all of data systems. Data systems also contain middleware software, which allows disparate operating and administrative systems to communicate with one other.

For instance, the CDC’s Pandemic-Ready Data Modernization Initiative aims to improve the data systems of local and state health departments to better respond to health emergencies that affect the public, such as COVID-19. This effort is an important element of President Biden’s plan to prepare for a new pandemic. Colleges are vital to this effort because they play a significant role in developing the necessary elements of the data system.

A data system is essentially any collection of symbols or operations that manipulate symbols. One example is the analysis of human speech at the phoneme level, or an Incan artifact known as the khipu. Another example is a stored image in pixels.

A satellite on orbit generates continuous streams of data, which has to be processed, stored, and sent back to Earth. This onboard data handling system is basically a computer, but not the type of computer that we use on our desktops. Spacecraft onboard data systems are specifically designed and constructed to address the unique challenges of space. Space radiation can quickly damage unprotected microprocessors. The onboard data systems must also be able to handle telecommands transmitted to the spacecraft to control it, and also collect housekeeping telemetry, which is required for downlinking from Earth.