The Big Data approach to business


Here’s a new approach to business which will definitely spur new business opportunities both from a customer and as a business owner. In this case, you’re now the product.


From the Sydney Morning Herald

Sharing the profits of data capture

Mahesh Sharma
Published: September 18, 2012

Individuals should receive a cut of the huge profits generated by large companies capturing personal data for commercial purposes, according to the founder of one of the world’s most ambitious data projects.

The Human Face of Big Data aims to create a digital snapshot of the human race.

Between September 25 and October 2 it will ask 10 million people about their life, family, trust, sleep, sex, dating and dreams via a dedicated smartphone app. The information will be used to generate data visualisations and reveal how people around the world think and behave.

Data is the new oil fuelling the explosion of today’s digital economy but the project’s founder Rick Smolan said a share of the spoils should go to the sources of the information.

”Why is it that everyone is making money off our browser history except us? How come Google, Facebook and Twitter can all sell this stuff, but you and I have no say about whether they can sell it, and if they are going to sell it, I’d like a cut of it, please. Give me a 10 per cent discount and maybe I’ll share my data with you.

”Big data is a new asset class, and yet the ones creating it seem to have no say in the process.”

Smolan said the big data project wouldn’t gather any information that could identify participants or their devices. Once completed, the anonymous information would be given to universities and research organisations, he said.

The project sponsor, information management company EMC, has set up 1000 machines running the Greenplum analytics database to process the information. Each query is split up into 1000 chunks, processed individually by each machine, then reassembled to provide a response.

The varied nature of the data and inputs means the project could not be completed using a traditional relational database.

In November, the book, The Human Face of Big Data, will be distributed to the world’s most influential people, Mr Smolan said.

They include US President Barack Obama, editor-in-chief of American Vogue Anna Wintour, president of the Indian National Congress Sonia Gandhi, and Jiang Jiemin, chairman of PetroChina. One of the book’s stories will tell of a man who is suing medical manufacturer Medtronics in an effort to reclaim data generated by his pacemaker.

Data analysis is at the point where the internet was in 1993, Smolan said. Consumers are just becoming aware of its potential and understanding what it means to them.

But Electronics Frontiers Australia executive officer Jon Lawrence said in today’s technology environment users were expected to trade their information to use free services such as Facebook or Gmail.

”If you’re not paying for a service, it’s almost always the case you are the product,” Lawrence said.

A new online survey of 1000 people by a data communications provider, iseek Communications, out today shows only one in four people considered how their personal information is handled by a company before making a purchase, although 64 per cent said they were concerned about what would be done with it.

Smolan said people needed to think about why their data was collected.

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