The Information Age is giving birth to a Data Society

Imagine you are an urban runner with severe allergies. It’s springtime and windy. What if you could share fitness and sensor data with others, combine that with open data from your city, and through Big Data style analytics chart a running path to avoid pollen hotspots in real time? Imagine you are a high school student trying to pick a college major. What if, by analyzing your own hobbies, test scores, and social media conversations in relation to successful adults, you could discover the career path that’s really meant for you?   

The ability to exchange and analyze information online has inspired us to digitize everything at a maddening pace — from our music and books to business transactions, scientific data, medical records and much more. Many refer to this as Big Data due to the sheer volume and speed of this digital tsunami.

What we have also found is that data can work wonders. Big Data allows us to take a broader view of the world, find hidden secrets, and fill in pieces of the puzzle that could never be found in smaller, separate datasets. This has taught us something essential: that data holds tremendous socioeconomic value which only increases as the relationships among data are uncovered. One day, the most valuable asset that many institutions – and individuals – will possess will be their data.

Although experts are mining vast amounts of Big Data as we speak, today’s technology struggles to realize its full potential. And very soon we will have much, much more of these valuable bits and bytes with the development of new sensors, wearable technologies, smart grids, smart cities – the emerging Internet of Everything.

As a Technology Evangelist, I have the opportunity to speak to visionary thinkers and technical experts across Intel Labs. From my discussions with our anthropologists I’ve come to appreciate true worth of our personal data. When analyzed, compared, and combined with other data, it can actively work for you — finding new opportunities, discovering personal insights, and connecting you to interesting people.

Intel Labs has a broad collection of research projects driven by the common principal that data is the currency of the future – including work the of future personal data economy, quantified self, graph analytics, data use controls, scalable algorithms, and silicon photonics. We do this through internal research and university collaborations such as the Big Data ISTC centered at MIT. Taken as a whole, we are looking across the full lifecycle of data, from its generation and protection through its analysis and the ultimate experience for the user.

Our Big Data researchers aim to ensure that all of the technologies are in place to provide the foundation for new applications based on massive and/or rapid streams of information. At the same time, our new “Data Economy” initiative (see wethedata.org, one product of this work) looks forward to new opportunities around the exchange of personal information: building use controls directly into data, inventing intelligent agents to perform data exchanges and knowledge discovery, and creating a new digital marketplace in which “data in motion” actively negotiates on your behalf.  

The mining and extraction of these vast new data sources will be akin to a global Gold Rush. By working together to foster the development of a new data economy, wherein individuals and institutions alike can buy, sell, or freely exchange data, wherein everyone has the tools to draw valuable knowledge and insights from their information, and wherein you can protect & control how your data is used – we could create an exciting new data society.

Sean Koehl

About Sean Koehl

Sean Koehl (@smkoehl) is a Vision Strategist for Intel Labs, the global research arm of Intel Corporation. He is responsible for crafting visions of how Intel R&D efforts could impact daily life in the future. He leverages insights from Intel’s technologists, social scientists, futurists, and business strategists to articulate how technology innovations and new user experiences could improve lives and society. Sean received a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Purdue University and launched his career at Intel in 1998. He has worn many hats in his career including those of an engineer, evangelist, writer, creative director, spokesperson, and strategist. He has led a variety of projects and events, authored numerous technology publications and blogs, and holds seven patents. He is based at Intel’s headquarters in Santa Clara, California.

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