32,000 years ago the first cave drawing appeared in Chauvet, France and the destiny of Big Data was a fait accompli. Cave drawings give us information about prehistoric life but the picture is incomplete. We need more information. Fast-forward to today and the quantity of information has become so vast we just call it “Big Data.” And yet the picture is still incomplete.
The search for the complete picture reflects a desire for understanding. “Search” itself is the defining character of the Web. The most profitable Web-based company on the planet makes nearly all it’s profits from search. Today anyone can search for anything and get a list of information instantly. But the picture remains stubbornly incomplete.
The connectedness of things—called the internet of things is at an inflection point. Soon everything will be connected to the internet which means it can be searched and information about it can be displayed in a list of results on a Web page. From smartphones to smartmeters everything is becoming connected in order to streamline the collection of ever more information to complete the picture—your picture. And that’s beginning to make some people really nervous.
Big Data presents opportunity and risk. Owners and executives can ill-afford to ignore the potential business insight available today from social networks and connected things. But the risk is invasion of privacy and customer revolt. With today’s tools for acquiring, analyzing, and disseminating information people sense there will soon be no place to hide—the last vetige of privacy evaporating into the cloud. When the electric utility industry first launched smartmeter projects it made no provisions for customers to opt-out. In the industry’s mind the fact that cutomer names were protected from third parties was enough. But a funny thing happened on the way to smartmeter. People began to sense for the first time that usage data was their data and it had somehow acquired economic value. In the previous world of un-connected things customer data didn’t have much value to the people who owned it. But things are different now.
The growing recognition on the part of customers that they own their data is throwing a monkey in the wrench of Big Data. Before BD can offer usable insight a more equitable arrangement is needed that creates value for all parties. Meanwhile the price of computing continues to decline bringing the insoluable into the realm of solutions and Big Data is the target of that process. It has implications for human longevity, future energy, and interplanetary travel but only if we can be as smart as our things.
Is Big Data the key to human survival or is it simply—too much information?
For more insights (and entertainment) read…
Rage Against the Smart Meters
The Intersection of Information and Energy Technology