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The Big Data Echo Chamber: The Future of Decision Making is Here

     We’ve collected massive amounts of data for years, even decades.  Are we finally at a turning point?  Are we finally figuring out what to do with all this data beyond painful forecasting models and cute but generally useless infographics? 

     I think the answer is most certainly yes and we don’t have to look much further than President Obama’s recent victory.  Romney “had more money and won plenty of news cycles. (He outspent Obama in every swing state except Ohio.) Republican super PACs raised more than their Democratic counterparts. The GOP claimed to double or triple its “voter contacts” in key states. Democrats won anyway, because they’d figured out whom to spend money on, and how.” (source)  He figured this out using an unprecedented voter database he build over the past couple election cycles along with a room full of "hip Geeks.”

Obama’s development but more importantly, the use of his voter database, is already firing up Democrats all over the country.  Democrats are quickly pushing to redeploy this insanely awesome accomplishment throughout all levels of elections beginning with next years gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.  Republicans need to get their act together not only with respect to their fundamental party philosophy but also with respect to the power of correctly deployed data. “It’s always hard to play catch-up,” said Peter Pasi, a Republican direct marketer who worked on Rick Santorum’s presidential primary campaign. “It can be done by 2016. I’m much more doubtful it can happen by 2014.”

Many of us, myself included, should be worried about what this all means.  Obviously the final decision is with each individual voter but will massive data patterns dictate public policy?  Will political leaders measure pulse of an electorate with massive streams of 1’s and 0’s just to build “what we want to hear” politics to get elected?  I have a sneaking fear that America might be in danger of becoming the world’s largest echo chamber, a reverberating hall of old ideas and safe choices.  Hopefully this is just the pessimist in me speaking and in reality government’s new found insight into America’s collective consciousness through cutting edge analysis of big data can arm decision makers to make informed and beneficial decisions.

Converging on the Industrial Internet

txchnologist:

by Txchnologist staff

For decades, science fiction writers and futurists have foretold a time when a world of networked machines work together with people to share information and solve problems.

Now that age is dawning. A huge amount of information—now coined Big Data—is being generated, collected and analyzed in industries from manufacturing to healthcare and power generation. At the same time, advances in artificial intelligence, communications technologies and analytic tools are causing experts to begin speaking of an Industrial Internet that connects computerized machines, people and data.

“Exciting new advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence will augment human intuition and perception in interpreting the Big Data being generated through the myriad of scientific and Industrial Internet applications that have been emerging over the past years,” writes Rick Arthur, a member of GE’s software sciences and analytics team.

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I highly recommend you watch this entire TED video.  If you’re short on time however start watching at 11:30 because this is where things get really crazy.  MIT researcher Deb Roy wanted to understand how his infant son learned language — so he wired up his house with videocameras to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son’s life, then parsed 90,000 hours of home video to watch “gaaaa” slowly turn into “water.”

He then applies this technology and big data principle to television feeds and social media traffic.  Mr. Roy is able to “get a true pulse on our nation at any given moment” by measuring what people are talking about and how they’re reacting to media in real time.  What’s really amazing in this video is how his MIT team visualizes the findings.

“With too little data, you won’t be able to make any conclusions that you trust.  With loads of data you will find relationships that aren’t real… On net, having a degree in math, economics, AI, etc., isn’t enough. Tool expertise isn’t enough.  You need experience in solving real world problems, because there are a lot of important limitations to the statistics that you learned in school.  Big data isn’t about bits, it’s about talent.”

Patricia,

Your predictions are very smart and this is very insightful post.  My background is iTV technology and not specifically digital, I hope you don’t mind me piggy backing off your post to offer some additional perspective.  I’m going to type in bold in response to your 12 predictions.

patriciahandschiegel:

What will happen next?

1. Internet of things - the ‘smart’ internet, device agnostic internet. Whatever name ends up sticking, it is emerging, next, now.

My version of the ‘internet of things’ concept is called ‘the connected toaster.’  I call it this because I think the world of connected objects will coalesce around the home- where most of our things are.  Pretty soon everything from our fridge, thermostat, and yes even our toasters will be connected to each other.  The home will serve as the mother ship of people’s connected lives, yes we will have incredible mobile capabilities as well but at the end of the day it will be our little slices of heaven we return to every night.

2. Shift in how people use the internet - lean back, different formats of communications (expanding and evolving from social network use).

Are you saying people’s use of the internet will become more passive, lean back?  Have to disagree with you on this one.  Right now all media is forcing us to lean forward and participate.

3. Increased government interest, involvement, control - including some walling off the platform to their own borders, oppressing citizens with it, etc. as well as legislation.

Oh how privacy rears its ugly head yet again.  You’re right, privacy conversations continue to escalate in virtually every sector.  It’s clear this topic isn’t going away but this magical connected world everyone is dreaming of cannot exist without massive amounts of private, behavioral data.  Today people willing give up unprecedented amounts of private data on social networks and in most cases they don’t realize that pretty much anytime they touch a keyboard (smart phones) someone is recording that action somewhere.  Much of this data today is used for advertising and that’s bad right?  Through the emergence of new business models (point #11 below) and disruptive connected devices personal data could be used to greatly enhance and streamline our lives.  If your fridge knows what you love to eat but you don’t have all the ingredients it can order all that stuff for you automatically before you get home from work.  From this simple example companies will know what food you purchase and how often, where you shop, when you come from work, the makes and models of your appliances, and if you’re on diet or not.  This is pretty scary stuff and the questions are:  will consumers trade privacy for The Jetson’s lifestyle?  Will there be a tipping point and are we already desensitized to big brother?

4. The expansion of the platform into its broader functionality beyond information delivery and communications — utility management and control, digital money and increased digital payments, digital identity, access control and security beyond the devices to larger things like buildings, cities, etc.

Connected homes and cities, these innovations will not be groundbreaking until average Joe consumer is using them.  Breaking into the psyche’s of consumers will happen through the home.

5. Cyberterrorism, cyberwarfare, etc. 

I don’t know where to put some of my comments since so much of this stuff is inter-related.  On the topic of privacy and cyberterrorism though, let’s talk about implanted computer chips.  Would you ever allow a computer chip to be surgically implanted into you?  My immediate reaction is HELL NO!  I don’t want to be a connected device like my toaster!  I sure as hell don’t want to open my biological body to hacking! But after thinking about the idea if you told me this chip could immediately notify emergency personal if I was in an accident, was having a heart attack, or could notice the signs of a stroke days before I got one?  That HELL NO becomes a little less definitive.  This is all pretty heavy and it’s going to take enormous cultural and social shifts to get people on board.  Again, what kinds of benefits would create the necessary tipping points?

6. Increased consumer issue with privacy, control and access. As more people start to see what can be done with the internet, and how they’re privacy is out of their hands, etc. they’ll likely start to care more about this.

7. General cybersecurity issues but broader range — building, energy grids, etc.

8. Increased availability of the ‘mobile’ internet but hardly limited to smart phones, tablets and laptops (including cars, motorcycles, airplanes, and other movable objects of all types and sizes).

First we had Web 1.0, now we’re coming to the close of Web 2.0 but will there be a Web 3.0?  Don’t think so.  If we are talking in terms of websites, social networks, youtube in 10 years then we have screwed up terribly.  The next ‘version of the internet’ is all mobile apps.  Think about it, Instagram never built a website…  this billion dollar company never even had a homepage.

9. Shift from the two communications/telephone platforms (PSTN/landline and mobile) to voice calls via the internet.

10. Increased decline in use of broadcast TV platform and print media platform — but increased use of both over the internet instead (as the internet has been born to do all along).

This is one of my favorite topics actually.  Yes audiences are fragmented, yes new platforms (tablets) are replacing older ones (newspapers), but Television is different.  That big screen in the center of your living room will never go away.  What you watch through it might change but traditional Television is still here and it’s stronger than ever.  Just today it was announced that this year’s cable upfronts alone will pass the $10 billion mark and that “a lot of advertisers and buyers look to cable as the foundation on which to build their annual media plan.”  Cross-platform marketing exists because people are adding screen to their worlds not replacing them.

Beyond just ad spend though, imagine you could talk to your house.  It’s much closer than you think.  The nucleus of ‘the connected toaster’ will actually be comprised of all the Televisions in your home.  All we need are connected TV’s (done) and Siri (done).  Combine Siri 3.0 with a connected TV linked to your world of connected devices and now the home really does have an ‘artificial intelligence.’  “Good morning home, please begin running my bath, tell me today’s weather, and tell me my itinerary through lunch.  Oh yeah, can you also turn all the lights on in the kids rooms and tell them to get up.”

11. Increased shift in monetization and models to what has always worked in various formats of platform business versus ad-only models that are prominent now.

12. Entrance of the carriers in the market - on all fronts. Which has the potential to be very disruptive as they can do what all can do on the platform, and likely will, but moreso because they own the infrastructure itself — with exception to Google, no other companies on the software side (websites, apps, social networks, etc.) do. This will likely create a disruption of the software side of the platform. Though only in a shift of its position from one place to another, it will likely have the potential to knock some parts of the market (and companies) off their game. Only time will tell.

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