Taking Big Brother and big business out of big data
Moves are afoot to turn the reams of collected data in the world into information that helps improve servicesEMC is working harder than most to save “big data” from becoming another phrase in the lexicon of IT buzz words, and will bombard you with statistics to put the explosion of electronic information in context.
They will tell you that it took until 2003 to create the first five exabytes of data (five billion gigabytes); now we do it every two days. Or point out that a child born today will generate more information in one year than all the information held in the Smithsonian Institute.
And did you know that 90 per cent of all of the information in the world today was created in the last two years?
Mind-boggling figures catch the eye, but it’s what to do with all the information that is starting to catch peoples imagination. “It’s about discovering a pattern within the data and learning from it,” said Adrian McDonald, president of EMC in Europe.
“It’s about using technology to turn data into information and real insights that have the potential to bring incremental change to the citizens of the world.”
In a bid to move the big data discussion away from big brother and big business connotations, EMC has commissioned Rick Smolan, the man behind global crowd-sourcing projects like “Day in the life”, to create the “The Human Face of Big Data”. He describes the phenomena as like watching the world develop a central nervous system.
The global project will draw on data collected by millions of sensors, satellites, RFID tags, and GPS-enabled cameras and smartphones. Elephant seals equipped with antennas on their heads will be used to map the oceans; an SMS system will be seen preventing the sale of counterfeit medicines in Ghana.
Next year there will be a book and a documentary, but right now there is a questionnaire in the form of a downloadable app that people are invited to fill in anonymously. As well as 50 questions in eight languages, you can opt to let the sensors on your smartphone relay your movements for a day, or complete the questions and search out a doppelganger in the world who thinks the same way about life as you.
Up to the launch in London last month, just over 100,000 people had taken part and the first feedback was visible on-screen in real time, sliced and diced to show us, for example, what people believe happens when we die – “Nothing. Game over” was top at the time.