More than 18 months ago, Bennet Bayer, Global CMO & VP Strategy at Huawei, posted an article on LinkedIn that rocked my world. He asked the simple question, "Are we looking at Big Data from the Wrong End?" Specifically, what we if gave consumers access to their own Big Data footprint? He mused:
What if I could get just my data...what could I do with it? I like my credit card company sending me an annual summary...if I had that every month could I budget better? Energy utilization in my house? How about all my medical information? Family? I can think of dozens of things (you?).
What if the collection of "Big Data" information was given back to "us"..."sold" back to us with range of tools (dashboards and historical tracking) helping us to improve how and what we do.
Like most visionaries, Mr. Bayer was sharing thinking that was ahead of his time. And, like all great idea viruses, this unique way of looking at Big Data has stayed with me. The more Data Scientists I talk to, the more I realize that having access to your own personal data is the next frontier of Big Data, although we're probably a few years out before we have the kind of dashboards that Mr. Bayer envisioned.
Accessing Personal Big Data Started with Health & Fitness Apps
We're slowly getting access to individual siloes of our personal data. It started with Fitbit and Nike's FuelBand tracking our daily activities. Then Apple dropped its own Health app on everyone's iPhone. Perhaps you're already using MyFitnessPal, which combines your exercise with a simple daily diary of your food choices (leveraging 5 million foods pre-populated in their database). In fact, Apple's App store's "Health & Fitness" section has hundreds of apps ready to track your calorie intake and exercise routines.
Personal Big Data Grows via IoT
The personalization of Big Data continues to grow with the Internet of Things. Watches from Samsung and Apple have kicked off this trend, but in the next year or so, expect to see digital sensors woven into clothing and more of your gadgets connecting to each other via Bluetooth or WiFi. At the moment, it's unclear how much direct access we will have to the data we are creating each day, but the trend is certainly leaning in that direction as several entrepreneurs are looking at unique and interesting ways to provide personal Big Data back to the very people creating that data in the first place.
Why Personal Big Data is Likely to be Accessed & Analyzed Directly by the People Who Create It
I spoke with Rafaela Frota who is a researcher and entrepreneur focusing on developing new solutions to raise nutritional awareness through big data and emerging technologies. Among her projects, she is working on Wawwe, an app that concierges' people to eat healthier and a hand held pesticide detecting scanner. Ms. Frota shared her perspective and explained it this way:
We, as entrepreneurs and global citizens, are living within a privileged technological era. For the first time in human existence, the complexities of cultures, behaviors, places, and people are capable of being quantified and analyzed to bring about meaningful experiences and knowledge. The internet has forged the connectivity between billions of previously untouched people. It has given birth to an expanding realm of ideas and information. All are connected, but few are aware. All are unique, but few are valued. Until, that is, big data came into the picture.
Doug Laney, one of the most prominent and founding advocates for big data, noted that volume, velocity, and variety are the three major components that make up this powerful and game changing industry.
Increasing amounts of data are accessible through emerging technology, and high velocity, real-time analysis is made possible by sensors, wearable technology, and the internet of things.
Big data allows for the quantifying of structured and unstructured information in the forms of numbers, audio, text, transactions or videos. Billions of portfolios are created every second that allow for personal engagement, insightful predictability, and wise decision making.
Research conducted within the University of Rochester in New York stipulates that by 2020, more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected. Imagine what that would mean for consumers and corporations both. Imagine personalized catering to the needs of consumers based on observed trends, behaviors, and wants.
This would mean a specimen of consumerism no longer based on the principle of idealism and superficiality, but instead driven by its actual relevance to those with purchasing power. "Buy less of what you don't need, and more of what you need"- a call to action opposite the 1950s foundation for the "American Dream".
If knowledge is power, then as decision makers, we are more powerful than ever.
However, the beauty lies in offering this decision making power to the end user, as well; broadening the playing field to include not only us, the entrepreneurs behind the corporate wheel, but the people who make the entire machine work.
Within an increasing number of app based business models, it is important to note that currently, there are 190.5 million US smartphone users of all ages, representing 73.4% of internet users and 59.3% of the population. It is expected that by 2019, the smartphone audience will reach 236.8 million. There is an almost immeasurable amount of user generated data that is stored, accessed, and analyzed by the social media gurus of today, yet in larger scale, only about 0.5% of all retrieved data is being assessed, and only 23% of organizations assessed actually have an enterprise wide big data strategy. There is a gap present.
As entrepreneurs, we seek disruption, change, innovation, and purpose. With the unleashing of the power of big data to consumers, we achieve all of that; personal engagement, insightful predictability, and wise decision making are no longer subjective to the visions of corporations, but instead in the hands of the consumer. With increased market transparency, awareness grows. Consumerism becomes an autonomous machine driven by the values and needs of the people and not the wants and profits of corporations.
Within the food industry, this is most evident. By giving access to nutritional information, personalizing recipes, food alternatives, health benefits, and utilizing the power of big data to connect all of that with news within the industry, ranging from food recalls, research findings, new product releases, etc--you have created an entirely new world of meaningful information.
As an entrepreneur unleashing the potential of big data to the end user, you have given the consumer the greatest form of power. You have brought the control to the soon to be 236.8 million smartphone users, instead of a handful of leading corporations. Forge the path to a post consumerism era, and raise awareness for smarter decision making.
Well said, Ms. Frota, I completely agree. The future of Big Data is a lot less about a handful of large enterprises attempting to control the data and a lot more about access by the people who are most impacted by their own digital footprints. It may take a few years to get this right, but it's too important to get it wrong. We may have lost the privacy war, but having access to our own digital footprint is the first step to having more control over our digital lives and making smarter decisions on a day-to-day basis.