Posts Tagged ‘data’
A super quick post to put up the slides from a talk I gave at NLB a couple of days ago. It is ongoing research so I would love to hear people’s comments as I finetune/clean up the research.
I’m doing some research into the Future of Data at the moment. I think Wired Magazine described it best when they wrote about the Petabyte Age.
“Welcome to the Petabyte Age. Sensors everywhere. Infinite storage. Clouds of processors. Our ability to capture, warehouse, and understand massive amounts of data is changing science, medicine, business, and technology. As our collection of facts and figures grows, so will the opportunity to find answers to fundamental questions. Because in the era of big data, more isn’t just more. More is different.”
When you are researching big-hairy-gorilla-type topics, like the Future of Data, it is always encouraging to see that other people are interesting in the similar things. So imagine my excitement over the weekend when I came across Matt Jones’ (from Dopplr) presentation on slideshare.
I really like the idea of data as seductive material. The idea that data has the ability to entice someone into a desired outcome or state. My phrase for it was behaviour optimisation, which really doesn’t sound as fun.
The real-time city is now real! The increasing deployment of sensors and hand-held electronics in recent years is allowing a new approach to the study of the built environment. The way we describe and understand cities is being radically transformed – alongside the tools we use to design them and impact on their physical structure. Studying these changes from a critical point of view and anticipating them is the goal of the SENSEable City Laboratory, a new research initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
I remember the first time I stumbled across the work of the Senseable City Laboratory. I was standing in the midst of an enthralled crowd at ETech, watching the visualizations from their New York Talk Exchange project. My immediate thought then was how fairly uninteresting telecommunication data was transformed into something meaningful and easily understood. I especially liked seeing how different neighborhoods reached out to the rest of the world via the AT&T telephone networks and thought it was an immediate and easily available proxy for demographic data that we usually only get through a laborious census process.
The elegance of their work is enough to stand alone as art but that shouldn’t distract from the rich technology base beneath the initial “wow” factor. And of course, the policy analyst in me also loves how the abundance of real-time data can help us understand and describe the cities we live in and ultimately lead to better policy outcomes.
We all experience information overload (especially here at FG) and to a large extent the availability of information has gone to a bad place, making it almost paralysing to try to figure out what it all means, let alone be able to use it meaningfully. So what is the future of information? How will we collection it, store it, understand it, use it, interact with it, disseminate it, communicate it? Any thoughts?
Future Sense – The Numerati
Every credit-card purchase, every handphone call, every click on the computer mouse channelled details of our lives into vast databases. Those with tools and skills to make sense of them could begin to decipher our movements, desires, diseases, shopping habits and predict our behaviour.
Who–or what–are the Numerati?
According to Stephen Baker in “The Numerati”, they’re members of a global elite, and are busy analysing our every move. They’re rummaging through mountains of data, looking for patterns of our behavior so that they can predict what we might want to buy, who we’re likely to vote for, what job we’d do better than our colleagues. The Numerati are masters of symbolic realm. They’re great at math and computer science. The Googleplex is crawling with Numerati. So is IBM. And they are remaking entire industries, starting with advertising and media.
This book began as a cover story, “Math Will Rock Your World” (BusinessWeek 23 January 2006) and later covered in “Management by the Numbers” (BusinessWeek 8 September 2008). A lot of the Numerati in this book are working for businesses, including Yahoo, Accenture and Chemistry.com. For the US in this election year, microtargeting is the rage – using statistical analysis of every conceivable piece of data, from subscription to Wired or HBO to the number of school-age children living at home. Most of the money is still in mass market, things like TV ads. But if either candidate can use microtargeting to zero in on a few thousand voters in crucial districts, it could spell the difference in the election.
According to the book …
The Numerati are transforming…
The same algorithms originally used to combat email spam by predicting its mutations are now being used to predict the mutations of the HIV virus
The Numerati are now using surveillance methods perfected in Las Vegas casinos – methods designed to pinpoint known cheaters, crooks and card-counters – to spot potential terrorists
By analysing the data they gather about us, retailers are learning how to lavish big spenders with special attention and nudge cheapskates towards the door
- Consumer Power
—but vigilant Numerati are also working on behalf of the consumer providing Web surfers with the tools to amass their own idea – and to sell it to advertisers rather than blindly give it away.
Intel is measuring the time it takes a person to recognise a familiar voice on the phone if the lapse lengthens, it can point to the onset of Alzheimer’s. And by studying old sitcoms, researchers can see that Michael J Fox was shortening his stride a decade before his diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Now they’re hooking up monitors and even “magic carpets” to pick up the same telltale signs in thousands of homes.
Political Numerati are placing citizens into new types of tribes according to our values, studying and targeting citizens with increasingly customised come-ons. And they’re discovering al sorts of correlations – cat owners are more likely to be Democrats. Republicans trend towards dogs.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon are studying the patterns of office email to spot signs of subversive networks taking shape within a company, or to spot outliers – who might be ready to jump ship, or even spill trade secrets.
Meet the Numerati (they’ve already met you)
Runs Intel’s health research division. Sets up sensors network in older people’s home to monitor them and detect changing patterns of behaviour indicating the possible onset of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.
Run a Las Vegas start-up that helped casinos identify and track cheaters. Sold the start-up to IBM a few years ago and is now a privacy advocate involved in anti-terrorist efforts
At IBM Research, headed the effort to model the work habits and productivity of 50,000 IBM consultants. He moved last summer to Goldman Sachs.
Kansas State University researcher who is putting computers with sensors and wireless radios into the bodies of cows, tracking their behaviour and correlating it to their health, to eventually benefit ours.
Entreprenuer out of MIT Media Lab. Started company to help pinpoint possible friends and allies through mobile networks.
A professor at Carnegie Mellon who studies the social networks of corporate emailers, trying to spot growing alliances, insurgencies and hidden star performers.
Founded Spotlight, a political consultancy that combs through consumer data to place 175 million Americans in 10 new “values” tribes.
Founder of Tacoda, a behavioural advertising company that tracks our clicks and sends us microtargetted ads.
Founder of Umbria, a company that automatically sorts millions of bloggers by age and gender and mines their sentiments for market research
Rutgers University anthropologist who devised Chemistry.com’s matchmaking formula
At Accenture Labs in Chicago, he decodes the behaviour of the American shopper and refines techniques to make shoppers spend more.
Founder of Inform Communications, which automatically scours the world of news, put articles into context and groups them and links them to targetted customers.
What does this mean for Singapore?
The Numerati rely on statistics and probability, and use algorithms to make predictions. Though the Numerati are not always right –what the Numerati call “false positives”– nevertheless, there will be significant opportunities for innovators and enterprenuers over the next decade to learn from foresighters and trendspotters, including the Numerati. How can Singapore businesses effectively take advantage of these opportunities? Is there a role for Singapore to play here?
BusinessWeek cover story, “Management by the Numbers” (8 September 2008) : http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/toc/08_36/B4098magazine.htm
BusinessWeek cover story, “Math Will Rock Your World.” (23 January 2006) : http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_04/b3968001.htm
And imagine what those with ability to make sense of them could begin to decipher ourselves.
According to Stephen Baker in “The Numerati”, there is a group of global elite who are capable of doing so. They use statistics and probability, lots of maths and computer science. And they are remaking entire industries, starting with advertising and media.
Future Sense – The Future of Personal Security
With the increasing uncertainty worldwide (be it in terms of terrorism, diseases, etc), security is a matter close to the hearts of many people. This issue of Future Sense highlights some new technology developed to protect a spectrum of personal effects such as children, money, valuables and food. This article was featured in the latest edition of Pop Science, a magazine covering the latest developments in technology.
The article highlights the following new technology for security that are currently being developed :
a) Protect our Kids – Camera with behaviour tracking software
- This smart camera, being developed by a US firm, is an enahncement to CCTVs as it can identify and highlight shady behaviour or suspicious activities.In the example of a CCTV in a school, instead of staring blankly into a CCTV screen (as it is presently), the smart camera will only notify security personnel when it picks up any suspicious activity out of the ordinary (eg kids climbing over a fence, intruders entering school at odd times, etc.)The R&D for this is likely to take a few more years to complete.
b) Protect our Money – Flexible Display technology leading to fraud-proof bank cards
- One of the problems in trying to defeat bank fraud is because we are using the same digits in our credit card when we purchase something. There will be opportunities when fraudsters can get this information and then cheat the bank. To solve the problem, a US firm is developing an electronic credit card which generates new numbers based on a fixed algorithm on command after each transaction, which only the bank will know. So even if fraudsters capture your credit card number (say off the web), it is of no use as it would have expired. The banks in US are planning to start pilot tests with this technology at the end of this year.
c) Protect our Car – Unmistakable Identification using transparent minute ‘Dots’
- To protect valuable individual possessions such as a car, boat or laptop, an Australian company is developing transparent minute identifiers (containing the owner’s data) known as ‘Dots’, which are then coated onto the internal surface of the valuable. The sheer number of sand-grain sized ‘Dots’ (which will go into the thousands) on the treated possesion will make it almost impossible for a thief to scrap them off and sell it. When the police wants to determine who a stolen property belongs to, they can use a powerful magnifier to ‘read’ the data on the dots. They can then check with the company-managed international database to determine the owner. This product is currently undergoing trials in US.
d) Protect our Food – Meat with certified ‘disease free’ DNA
- To ensure that the meat we eat is not from diseased animals, an Irish company is developing the first ever commercial DNA fingerprinting technology for meat. A DNA sample is taken from a healthy animal at the farm or slaughterhouse and stored in a database. When the meat is at the supermarket, another DNA sample is taken and this is matched to the database, which proves this meat is from a 100% disease free animal. If bacteria is introduced somewhere along the transporting process, the source of the outbreak can be identified within hours by tracing the journey of the infected animals.Trials in Europe has been successful and it is expected that US supermarkets will adopt this technology within the next 5 years
Some thoughts for consideration:
Singapore is known to be a relatively safe place, both for people and possessions. With the increasing uncertainty and insecurity worldwide, are there opportunities for us to leverage on this image and develop security products and services for overseas markets? Considering our security and safety record, do we have any inherent strengths in this field that we can take advantage of? While the above examples cited are all technoloogy related, are there any non-technology related security products and services we can offer?