The Human Face of Big Data

This article references the documentary, The Human Face of Big Data.

Image by CuriosityStream

Active measurement produces data. And we’re measuring more than we ever have before. The more information we get, the more problems we can solve. The expansion of data measurement is comparable to a microscope in that you can see things you’ve never seen before. When the search tool was introduced to the Internet, that was a powerful jumping off point.

There’s so much information out there that hasn’t been digitized. As that information gets added to digital databases overtime, just imagine how much machines will uncover.

Algorithms help connect things together. Data is meaningless until someone connects the dots.

Data has the potential to predict the future. In the past, data has predicted flu outbreaks in real time before the CDC. However, the prediction methods don’t work when the media skews things by harping on how big of a flu season it will be.

Wordscapes are a powerful tool in the world of big data. In the documentary, a man used wordscapes to study when, where, and how his son learned certain words. 

Image from Jay Kim who wrote this article

Another use of big data occurs within the medical community with premature babies. Data from genomes is also being studied for the possibility of personalized medicine and a preventative model of care.

The power of data is in real time use cases, prediction abilities, and pattern recognition algorithms. Nearly everything gives off data and there’s more integration to come, especially with the introduction of sensors. This is referred to as “the Internet of things.” 

One Boston app uses the accelerometer of smartphones to track road conditions. If the driver’s car hits a dip in the road while the app is activated, the user’s phone will be able to detect it.

Crowdmapping was used for the Haiti earthquake to see what areas were affected the worse via Twitter. In this case, due to the power of big data, volunteers had the best information first, not the government. Artificial intelligence has great use for disaster response. A.I. was able to identify if an actual eye witness was tweeting from a position of distress, or if it was someone tweeting from a location outside of the danger zone.

With data, Target is able to predict what stage of pregnancy a woman is in, what they might need, and then create targeted ads (please, no pun intended). So here’s a story: An angry father stormed into Target with a flyer that was sent to his daughter. For pregnancy stuff. He didn’t know she was pregnant though she lived under his own roof. But big data knew. Of course the family found out eventually and the father was sure to go back to Target and apologize to the manager. True story.

Data has the ability to bring real world activities and cyberspace activities together. Cell phones are an example of recording and sensing objects and devices in public spaces.

Parting Words

You can’t talk about data without talking about people.

Data has intrinsic value. Think: what are the stories that emerge out of the data?

People who create the data should be able to benefit from the data. 

Harness the “ability to turn that data into actionable insight” and you’ll be golden.

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