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Big data & the future

Big Data

Published: Monday May 9, 2016
By: Faris Yahaya

The billions of gigabytes of data generated daily from human behaviour is a treasure-trove of information that will enable manufacturers and marketers to peer into your subconscious and anticipate your wants and needs.

MORE than three million emails are sent around the world every second and 100 hours of video are uploaded on Youtube every minute, while Google handles more than a trillion searches every year. More data crosses the Internet every second today than was stored in the entire Internet 20 years ago.

Every action, interaction, question and decision generates data. Consumers churn out about five exabytes (or five billion gigabytes) of data daily — 90% of which is unstructured and lacking context, so it’s just a matter of time before making sense of it — or data analytics — becomes a big business.

There is gold in everything. Everything from our buying and driving patterns to eating and sanitary habits are digitised and analysed for marketing purposes. Even things we don’t buy or do gets tracked.

From the amount of time we spent on a webpage to where our mouse pointers were hovering; how long we stood outside a store window or looked at a book: everything is collected and analysed to help designers refine their products and marketers to understand your subconscious.

The most dramatic example is how Target in the US has managed to refine their data analytics so delicately that they are now able to anticipate when their customers will expect a baby; in one case, even sending some discount brochures to the house of a pregnant teenager before she even knew she was expecting!

Wearables such as watches and jewellery will soon feed data directly to your insurance companies, enabling them to offer their more health-conscious customers better policies, thus rewarding habits on a daily basis. It might even help planners to decide where the next hospitals, care facilities and related infrastructure should be, influencing social policy, trade incentives and even real-estate prices.

Jawbone, the makers of the Up fitness tracker, for example, collects more than 60 years of sleep data every night, in addition to calorie intakes, activity and stress levels, potentially helping millions with their sleeping problems worldwide.

Companies such as New AXEL in the UK have created wearables for the elderly and infirm, using accelerometers to indicate a fall, make SOS emergency calls and directing emergency services to them using GPS — even using voice commands for blind users.

The same platforms are also being used to monitor premature and sickly babies in ICUs. Algorithms can now be used to predict infections a full 24 hours before any physical symptom appears, giving doctors crucial time to intervene.

Everywhere we look in the medical sciences, big data has grown by leaps and bounds. Little wonder when we consider both the resources and expertise the insurance, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries bring to the table. But it also stands as a prime example of how we can prioritise and direct funding in the larger areas.

The next step is to add context and structure to this mass of data.

Big data analytics is allowing us to decode entire DNA strings in a matter of minutes, enabling better, faster and more accurate research into finding cures for everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s. It offers solutions to creative AND technical problems — even breathing new life into previously limited or obsolete technologies such as the gyrometer and radio frequency identification, or RFID.

Entire technologies are being created with big data specifically in mind: just a few days ago, researchers from the University of Washington announced the creation of WISP, or wireless identification and sensing platform, a small battery-free computer the size of a 20-sen coin that creates power out of thin air!

But for all the promise, big data is still in its infancy. And like any raw material, its end product is only as good as what we put into it. And that’s why there will always be a need for the human touch.

Which is why we at Cyberview are working with some of the biggest players in big data analytics to build expertise across the spectrum of human involvement: from creating the algorithms to guiding the applications through the last third, and hopefully inspiring innovation everywhere in between.

Through initiatives such as Malaysia’s very own Asean Data Analytics Exchange (Adax), the local big data players led by MDeC, will create a regional platform bringing together companies and the government sector to get trained, build analytics products, and showcase the latest big data analytics (BDA) technologies.

Adax will be instrumental in the reinvention of businesses and the rise of startups built around the value propositions offered by cloud computing, BDA and open data.

Expect to hear more from us in the next couple of months. Because technology never sits still. And neither do we.