Strata Week: Big data’s big future

Big data in 2013, and beyond; the Sunlight Foundation's new data mining app; and the growth of our planet's central nervous system.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Big data will continue to be a big deal

“Big data” became something of a buzz phrase in 2012, with its role in the US Presidential election, and businesses large and small starting to realize the benefits and challenges of mountains upon zettabytes of data — so much so that NPR’s linguist contributor Geoff Nunberg thinks it should have been the phrase of the year.

Nunberg says that though “it didn’t get the wide public exposure given to items like ‘frankenstorm,’ ‘fiscal cliff‘ and YOLO,” and might not have been “as familiar to many people as ‘Etch A Sketch’ and ’47 percent'” were during the election, big data has become a phenomenon affecting our lives: “It’s responsible for a lot of our anxieties about intrusions on our privacy, whether from the government’s anti-terrorist data sweeps or the ads that track us as we wander around the Web.” He also notes that big data has transformed statistics into “a sexy major” and predicts the term will long outlast “Gangnam Style.” (You can read Nunberg’s full case for big data at NPR.)

Perhaps big data will have a shot at the word-of-the-year limelight again in 2013. GigaOm’s Derrick Harris writes that “the data revolution is just getting started” and explores three reasons he feels “the world of data is going to get bigger, better and more personal in the next year.” He predicts that the Hadoop ecosystem is in for a change, pointing to “the rash of companies trying to make Hadoop more useful by turning it into a platform for something other than running MapReduce jobs.” Additionally, he says that he’s “got it on a good authority that we’ll see more real-time/streaming Hadoop frameworks in the coming months.”

Harris also looks at the influence Google’s new director of engineering Ray Kurzweil will have on the artificial intelligence space, and he says he’d like to see 2013 usher in an era in which consumers can use a combination of apps, data and devices to learn about themselves in more meaningful ways. “I want to see data analyzed and displayed as information I can really use to improve my life, tied to metrics I might not think to (or be able to) connect on my own,” Harris writes. (You can read more from Harris’ 2013 predictions at GigaOm.)

Looking a bit further down the road, IBM has predicted that within the next five years, computers are going to become more like us — more human-like. Nick Kolakowski reports at Slashdot that “IBM’s researchers believe that computers, over the next five years, will increasingly mimic touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell.” Quoting from a blog post by IBM’s chief innovation officer Bernard Meyerson predicting five inventions that will change the world in five years, Kolakowski reports:

“Emerging technologies will help transform how people interact with systems such as Watson. ‘One of the most intriguing aspects of this shift is our ability to give machines some of the capabilities of the right side of the human brain,’ Meyerson added. ‘New technologies make it possible for machines to mimic and augment the senses.'”

You can read more from Kolakowski’s report at Slashdot, and more from Meyerson’s invention predictions at Building a Smarter Planet.

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Sitegeist offers up your data bearings

Nathan Yau highlighted the Sunlight Foundation’s newly launched app Sitegeist this week, calling it “[d]ata just a flick and a scroll away.” The app pulls data from the public domain to provide information about the area around you, including weather data; demographics about people, their housing costs, ways they commute, and their political contributions; and popular destinations, such as restaurants.

Eric Limer highlighted Sitegeist at Gizmodo as well, and noting that the Sunlight Foundation is just getting started: “So far the app scrubs sources like Census information, Yelp, and Foursquare, but the developers intend to fold in more and more information as good stuff becomes publicly available and accessible.”

At the Sunlight Foundation blog, Nicko Margolies took a look at the app’s first week, reporting that “that there have been more than 300,000 paneviews, which are individuals loading different categories of data” and that the app has been downloaded more than 20,000 times. Sitegeist is available for free on both Android and iOS.

The Internet of (50 billion)Things

We’re starting to see the Internet of Things take shape in our daily lives, from gadgets to help usexercise and stay healthy, to devices to make “dumb” objects in our homes smart, to smart thermostats to save energy and money — there are even connected sensors to help you become a better snowboarder. But according to Egenera’s marketing VP John Humphreys, we haven’t even seen the tip of this iceberg yet. In a post at Forbes, Humphreys puts the landscape into perspective:

“Today, there are roughly two Internet-connected devices for every man, woman and child on the planet. By 2025, analysts are forecasting that this ratio will rise past six. This means we can expect to grow to nearly 50 billion Internet-connected devices in the next decade.”

Humphreys says this vast network provides us an opportunity to “impart a central nervous system on our planet” that will help us solve society’s biggest issues. He looks at several areas likely to see great innovation as a result, including medicine, energy, and the environment — and notes that “[w]e haven’t even begun to apply these technologies in the industrial industry.” He also addresses the cloud’s role, calling it “the brain” for the central nervous system, and outlines the benefits we humans will reap from these interconnected sensors, from product and service customization to more efficient cities to smarter power distribution. You can read Humphreys’ full report at Forbes — it’s this week’s recommended read. You might also be interested in O’Reilly Radar’s ongoing look at the Industrial internet.

Strata Week will return January 4, 2013 — have a great holiday!

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