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Big Dating: Bringing real data to the dating game.

June 1, 2015 Leave a comment

The online dating industry has grown from strength to strength and is estimated to be valued in excess of £2Billion, globally. However, the future growth may hinge on how data and new technologies can be leveraged to improve user experience and matching outcomes. Some key questions: Does having more data about potential partners really make any difference in finding the right match? What are key emerging trends that will affect the evolution of online dating?

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There are literally thousands of online dating sites worldwide, including over 1400 sites in the UK alone where online dating accounts for 25% of all new relationships. As might be expected, there are many types of players and business models in the industry, including online behemoths such as eHarmony or Match.com; mobile players like Tinder or Hinge; and increasingly niche specialists that match users based on specific demographic factors e.g. age / income / ethnicity / religion / location / sexuality etc.

Regardless of player size, business model or target user groups, a quick web trawl reveals some salient observations about the current and future state of online dating, as follows:

  • Mobile dating on the rise – A key trend is the increasing use of mobile Apps for online dating – so the major players are refocusing efforts to improve the multi-channel experience for their users.
  • A question of trust – Online dating services typically require user data for matching potential partners, but this can be greatly impaired by inaccurate data. Users often exaggerate personal attributes, or lie outright, in order to attract potential partners. Providers seek additional data (e.g. from retail, social media, entertainment and online sources) to augment data accuracy. However, there are privacy implications here that will need addressing.
  • User behaviours – Some provider prefer to base matches on actual user behaviours. The idea being that people often say one thing then do the opposite, and this is not unusual with online dating where user reactions to proposed matches can often reveal their true preferences regardless of what is stated on their profiles.
  • Matching algorithms are far from perfect – In fact, some view matching algorithms as just “smoke and mirrors”, and that dating sites succeed simply by providing a larger pool of potential partners. Furthermore, human matching is a bi-directional proposition because, unlike Amazon recommends, your supposedly perfect match may not be all that into you.
  • The eternal shop window – General attitude to online dating has become more positive, and the number of people using dating apps is growing faster than all other apps combined. However, these also foster the notion that online dating encourages, or at least facilitates, perpetual window shopping for potential matches, even for those people in committed relationships.

It is clear from the above that although data and technology will continue to be crucial in the evolution of online dating, the continued success and growth of the industry will depend very much on how well it can handle complex human behaviours, motivations and inconsistencies.

Matching algorithms aside, there’s still significant opportunity and scope for complex human behaviour modelling, and improved dynamic/predictive analytics, to cater for users’ changing preferences, circumstances and motivations. These must all be in place in order for the claims and predictions of everlasting happiness via online dating can be tested or verified. Perhaps, if Romeo and Juliet had access to such computer enabled insight theirs may not have been such a tragic love story!

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Internet of Things = Internet of Trust

September 18, 2014 Leave a comment
That was one of several key observation from yesterday’s event at the BCS Chartered institute of IT. Others include a warning about Internet of fake Things as well as the critical role that you, the user, must play in order to ensure Things don’t get out of hand, so to speak. Read on to find out more…

IoT1

The sold out event started with an overview of Cisco’s initiatives and activities around the Internet of Things (IoT), which were vividly described by Sarah Eccleston, (IoT Director at Cisco). Covering everything from cows to ice cream, health monitoring to supermarket supply chain optimisation, she painted a picture of a future with IoT which is already starting to happen right now.
This was followed by a note of caution from Martin Lee, (Cisco threat intelligence), who warned that ungoverned, exponential growth of IoT devices and services could lead, among other things, to an “Internet of Fake Things”. According to him, now is the time to steer IoT development toward a safe and stable direction for the benefit of all.

Antonis Patrikios, (Director at FieldFisher), spoke about the legal aspects of IoT and privacy, as well as the need to ensure that IoT works for the benefit of people. He described IoT as the “Internet of Trust” because that is what will be needed to enhance user experience and address key legal challenges such as user privacy and the fact that “IoT is global, but the law is not”.

Finally, the University College London (UCL) provided a glimpse of real IoT projects developed by UCL post graduate students using Microsoft technology. They described realistic usage scenarios and demonstrated the ability to organise groups of Things, controlled via a “Captain” device, to support multiple uses of the same Things (or groups thereof). E.g. the same Captain device in a hospital room full of Things could service the use cases of multiple stakeholders, including the: doctor, patient, family members, building security and hospital administrators.

In the end, all speakers seemed to agree that the combination of IoT and Big Data will be THE game changer in the next wave of computing. There was a certain buzz in the air, as attendees and speakers discussed the possibilities and challenges posed by IoT. One show of hands survey indicated that attendees thought the Internet of Things was at least as significant as, if not more so than, the advent of the original Internet. It was also felt that user education, (e.g. by the IoT service providers, “Thing makers” and their collaborators), would be key to the success and acceptance of IoT by the general public – people are genuinely concerned about their privacy, personal safety and security.

To conclude, IoT is an exciting yet scary proposition, which is set to fundamentally influence the way we interact with information and the world around us. I hope we can get it right.

Big Data, Privacy and Intellectual Property

September 29, 2013 2 comments

Big Data, cloud, social and mobility make up Gartner’s Nexus of Forces, aka super disruptors of the digital age. In a previous related post, I discussed how such forces impact the concept of intellectual property, and in this post I’ll focus on two major issues that impact and influence big data.

Big Data, Privacy, IP

Big Data, Privacy, IP

Although a lot has been written about big data and the challenge / opportunity it presents to enterprises and individuals, the sparks really start to fly whenever commercial exploitation of digital information and content (incl. big data), enters the realms of personal privacy and IP rights (IPR).

Big Data

According to a recent Forrester report , your typical firm has on average 125TB of data but only actually utilise 12% of it. This shocking statistic brings home a key attribute and challenge of big data, namely the sheer volume, velocity and variety of data that resides and travels across multiple channels / platforms within and between organisations. As a result, many organisations have turned to ever more advanced analytics and business intelligence solution (including big data and social media) to extract value from the sea of information.

Personal Privacy

Given such powerful tools, and the vast amount of replicated information across various sources, it is relatively easy to get a picture of any individual’s situation, strengths and limitations. For many organisations, such data could become “toxic” if and when they suffer any loss of control. However, personal privacy is subjective at best, and there are differing world views on whether it should be considered a constitutional or fundamental human right.

Furthermore, the explosion in speed / type / channel of interaction may have brought about a certain degree, (perhaps even an expectation or acceptance), of reduced privacy. However, although some users may be happy to share personal data in exchange for financial gain, according to a recent SSRN paper, data protection and privacy entrepreneurship may have their place, but “people should not have to pay to protect their privacy or receive coupons as compensation”, especially as this might further disadvantage the poor.

Intellectual Property

In addition to the above issues, organisations also have to deal with the drama of IP rights and how they apply to the masses of unstructured data and content. In other words, every last piece of the aforementioned 125TB of big data held within your average organisation will have some associated IPR which must be taken into consideration when collecting, storing, processing or sharing that information. According to some legal experts, companies need to think through certain fundamental legal aspects of IPR, e.g. “who owns the input data companies are using in their analysis, and who owns the output?”

If you consider all the information / content, (including employee ‘personal’ content), sloshing around in every organisation, then you might begin to perceive the scale of the problem. There may be a lucrative opportunity for information mining and analysis algorithms aimed at the computer audit and forensic investigations market.

The way forward

Below are 3 things that organisations should bear in mind when dealing with the issues and problems posed by big data, privacy and IP:

  1. Information is the lifeblood of business  – implement the right policies for big data governance. The right information, at the right time, for the right user, is the holy grail for business, and it demands capabilities in Data Science and increasingly Data Art  . 
  1. Soon it may not really matter who owns your data – Personal information is becoming another currency with which the customer can obtain value. There is a growing push to focus big data governance / controls on data usage rather than data collection. 
  1. It’s not the tool, but how you use it – technology is not really that much a differentiator, rather it is the architecture and infrastructure approach that make all the difference – e.g. Forrester’s report recommended the “Hub and Spoke” model for decentralised big data capability3

In conclusion, although it may appear that the heady combination of big data, privacy and IP could be lethal for any organisation,  we mustn’t ignore real opportunities to reap the benefits of big data insight, but first the organisation must put its house in order by adopting the right policies and principles for big data governance.

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Note: The above post is adapted from my article of the same title, which was published in the September edition of ITNow magazine,  by the BCS Chartered Institute for IT.

References:

  1. Gartner – Information and the Nexus of Forces: Delivering and Analyzing Data (26, June 2012) – Analyst: Yvonne Genovese
  2. BCS TWENTY:13 ENHANCE YOUR IT STRATEGY – Intellectual property in the era of big and open data (01-03-2013) – Jude Umeh FBCS CITP
  3. Forrester – Deliver On Big Data Potential With A Hub-And-Spoke Architecture (12, June 2013) – Analyst: Brian Hopkins
  4. SSRN – Buying and Selling Privacy: Big Data’s Different Burdens and Benefits (30-June-2013) – by Joseph Jerome (Future of Privacy Forum) – Ref: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2294996
  5. Out-law.com – Big data: privacy concerns stealing the headlines but IP issues of equal importance to businesses – Ref: http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2013/march/big-data-privacy-concerns-stealing-the-headlines-but-ip-issues-of-equal-importance-to-businesses-says-expert/
  6. BCS Edspace Blog – Big data: manage the chaos, reap the benefits – (17-May-2013) Marc Vael (International VP of ISACA) Ref: http://www.bcs.org/content/conBlogPost/2196
  7. Capping IT Off – Forget Data Science, Data Art is Next! – Simon Gratton Ref: http://www.capgemini.com/blog/capping-it-off/2013/07/forget-data-science-data-art-is-next

How will owners of Intellectual Property cope with the era of big and open data?

November 11, 2012 1 comment

The concept of Intellectual Property (IP) is well proven as a powerful incentive that drives creativity and innovation, but it is increasingly being challenged by a highly connected world, particularly in all aspects of digital information and content life-cycle  To further complicate matters, rapid changes in the enabling technology / triggers are only likely to increase or accelerate, and according to Gartner, some of these developments, (e.g. Big Data, Cloud, Mobile & Social) have combined to produce a paradigm shift in the way we do business.  Such worrisome trends are only exacerbated by the fact that IP sits right in the middle of it all.

 

The IP Puzzle

The IP Puzzle

Surprisingly, not many decision makers appear to understand, or are willing to discuss, how such developments affect their business, particularly with regards to information assets and IP. Is it too early for any meaningful dialogue? Are the impacts unlikely to be anything major, (i.e. compared to the other trends), or are business leaders far too busy facing harsh economic realities to focus on this too? The respective answers are no, yes and probably. However, the impact will be anything but trivial, when you consider just how tightly IP is interwoven with all such developments. Some of the high-level intersections between IP and technology trends are:

IP and the Cloud – Key implications for IP, (aside from relevant cloud technology patents), are related to access and use of data held within the cloud, as well as the services they power.

IP and Social Media – Social media is the product of all interactions between individuals in a social network, including all information created, modified, exchanged and shared between the members. Such content, their usage, and user behaviours, have huge implications for IP.

IP and Mobility – Mobility is the ability to access to information and other resources, through a mobile device, without restriction of a fixed location. Key implications for IP include unauthorised access to / use of location dependent material (e.g. territorial rights over copyright content).

IP and Big Data / Open Data – Data and information arguably have the most implication for IP, especially since digital data is both raw material and output / enabler of the information age (e.g. all IP is ultimately reducible to digital data, including the often controversial software IP). Data permeates and binds all the other technology and behaviour trends mentioned above, and reflects all their IP implications.

IP and Litigation – Following the recent spate of patent lawsuits between several large technology companies, it has become clear that IP is now regarded as a crucial weapon by some. According to a recent BBC news article, serious attempts are being made to address “an unwelcome trend in today’s marketplace to use standard-essential patents to block markets”. The cost and impact of such ‘weaponised IP’ litigation is basically stifling innovation, and goes against the key sentiment and objective of IP.

 

Top 5 things enterprise decision makers need to keep in mind

  1. The motivations and interests of 5 key IP stakeholder groups (i.e. the creative, technology, commercial, legislative and consumer stakeholders). No group is completely independent of the others; therefore a balanced approach is required for all IP related decisions.
  2. Need to create and communicate clear enterprise policies for IP, Social Media, Cloud, Mobility and Data
  3. The much desired real-time enterprise requires certain key elements to be in place, including: self-service BI (e.g. data mashups), event driven architecture (incl. Complex Event Processing), analytics and data discovery, as well as contextual capabilities (incl. location based services), and cloud computing. In all cases, early consideration of IP implications is crucial.
  4. The key to digital transformation and architecture, in a fast moving dynamic environment, may be found in alignment with constant business model innovation. The architecture of such an organisation, (incl. process and technology), must become more dynamic if it is to provide any sustainable value.
  5. In the brave new world, the customer comes first, and IP becomes the ‘value’ centre of the enterprise (rather than the products or services it is used to drive), whilst the business model flexes and changes as needed to accommodate those dynamics.

In conclusion, digital trends appear to suggest that mere products and services will no longer be sufficient differentiators in a digital world with ever diminishing barriers to entry. It ultimately boils down to a question of how, and not what, you create and deliver to your customers. Either way, data / Information and IP will continue to play a fundamental role in the entire digital value system.

Note: The above post is adapted from an article which is submitted and due for publication by the BCS Chartered Institute for IT.

Supercomputers and the Future

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Wednesday the 18th of April marked 100 days to the greatest show on earth, along with the promise of even more superlatives, as a direct consequence of the Olympic motto: “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. It certainly made an auspicious date for an event, held at the House of Lords, on the future of Supercomputers. 

House Of Lords

The House Of Lords

The event was The Second Lorraine King Memorial Lecture, sponsored by Kevin Cahill, FBCS.CITP (author of “Who owns Britain” and “Who owns the World”), and superbly hosted by the Lord Laird and Computer Weekly. The main topic of debate centred on whether Supercomputers were merely “prestige objects or crucial tools in science and industry”.

Figure: (L-R) Kevin Cahill, Prof. Meuer and Lord Laird

The lecture delivered by Supercomputer expert, Prof. Dr. Hans Werner Meuer, (see CV) was most illuminating, and I gathered, among other things, that the UK ranked 4th in the Top500 list of Supercomputer using countries, and that France was the only European country with any capability to manufacture Supercomputers. Clearly more needs to be done by the likes of the UK or Germany to remain competitive in the Supercomputing stakes, which begged the question, (as posed later by an attendee), of whether these machines were nothing more than objects of geopolitical prestige, superiority and / or bragging rights, (e.g. My Supercomputer is faster than yours, so Nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah nyah-nyah! – Or perhaps Na na, na, na, naa! – apologies to the Kaiser Chiefs).

In any case, several things stood out for me at this rather well attended event, including:

  • The definition of a Supercomputer remains based on the most powerful or fastest computers, at any given point in time, e.g. Apple’s iPad 2 is two-thirds as powerful as the Cray2 Supercomouter from 1986. The typical measure of speed and power is based on sheer numerical processing power (i.e. not data crunching), using the Linpack test
  • According a paper by Sponsor, Kevin Cahill, the Supercomputer sector is the fastest growing niche in the world of technology, and it is currently worth some $25Billion. Japan, China and the USA are currently holding the lead in the highly ego driven world of Supercomputing, but there is an acute shortage of the skills and applications required to make the most of these amazing machines
  • Typical applications of Supercomputing include: university research, medicine (e.g. Human Genome Project), geophysics, global weather and climate research, transport or logistics. It is used in various industries e.g.: Aerospace, Energy, Finance and Defence etc. More recent applications, and aspirations, include: bio-realistic simulations (e.g. the Blue Brain Project), and a shift towards data crunching in order to model and tackle challenges in such areas as Social Networks and Big Data.
  • The future of Supercomputers is to move past the Petaflop Supercomputers of today, to Exaflop capable machines by 2018. The next international conference on Supercomputers takes place June 17-21, in Hamburg, Germany, and it promises to include topics on: big data / alternative architectures for data crunching / Exascale computing / Energy efficiency / technology limits / Cloud computing for HPC, among other things.
Future of Supercomputers

The Future of Supercomputing (Source: http://www.isc-events.com/slides/london)

Overall, this was an excellent event, in a most impressive venue, and the attendees got a chance to weigh in with various opinions, questions and comments to which the good Professor did his best to respond, (including inviting everyone to Hamburg, in June, to come see for themselves!). Perhaps the most poignant take away of the evening, in my opinion, was the challenge by Lord Laird to the computing industry about a certain lack visibility, and the need for us to become more vocal in expressing our wishes, concerns and desires to those in power, or at least to those with the responsibility to hold Government to account. As he eloquently put it, (but paraphrasing slightly), “If we don’t know who you are, or what it is you want, then that is entirely your own fault!”

Big Data, Cloud, Social and Mobility == Super Disruption

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment
Did I leave out anything? Well, there was just no other way to end 2011 than by taking a quick look at the big four buzzwords that will likely combine to unleash a perfect storm of disruptive forces over the next 12 months or so.
Cloud, big data, social and mobility

Cloud, big data, social and mobility

Over the course of this blogging campaign I have focused mostly on cloud and certain relevant aspects (e.g. content, security, access and Intellectual Property), but the fact remains that other equally profound developments, such as: big data, social and mobile computing also provide significant challenges and opportunities for both consumers and the enterprise. Gartner predicts that the above four forces will combine to transform the IT landscape in 2012, and I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, this will probably go much further than the IT landscape, since such a potent combination can easily transform entire industries as well.

In 2011, the impact of social media and mobility meant that many organisations sought ways to engage better with their customers, using social media and mobile technologies. Also various organisations, ranging from consumer products to public sector, actively looked for ways to manage and leverage increasingly large amounts of ‘big data’ and valuable content, sometimes in ways that almost rivalled traditional content industries. Think publishing, broadcast and, of course, social media footprint in your organisation today and compare it to just 3 years ago.

So what does each of the aforementioned forces portend for industries in 2012, and what are the early signs or indicators of disruption? My imaginary crystal ball has misted over slightly, but the following are some key trends to watch for the coming year:

  1. Big Data – According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI), there will be more networked devices than people on earth, by year end 2011. With so many networked devices, and a related prediction that this number will double to over 2 devices per person by 2015, this is a clear indicator of the trajectory of growth for big Data over the next few years.
  2. Cloud – Cloud service providers will continue to improve and optimise services, particularly at the Data Centre level, in order to provide a seamless and efficient solution for their customers. Key focus areas include: security, intelligent storage, unified networking, policy-based power management, and trusted computing capabilities. Basically, anything that will make it easier to transition customers to the cloud environment, along with greater confidence in sustainable delivery and quality of service will win the day
  3. Social – Social media, networking and CRM all represent a move towards user centric engagement models that will allow a two way conversation between the enterprise and their: customers, suppliers, partners and employees. The user expectation of more meaningful and productive dialogue with the enterprise is only set to increase over the next 12 months
  4. Mobility – This is both a technology and use centric force which readily demonstrates the combination of all three forces along with location (in space and time). In the paradigm shifting world of context aware computing, the user and their activities are central to the flow and direction of dialogue / interaction with the enterprise. Increasingly users expect the enterprise to be able to leverage contextually relevant information when dealing with them, and this in turn drives enterprise adoption of enabling technologies to provide this capability.

A good case in point will be the summer Olympic Games in London, which should provide a fertile proving ground for many of the combined challenges and opportunities presented by the four buzzwords / trends discussed above.

In conclusion, I expect no less than a step change in disruption levels across industries over the next 12 months, or so. The gloomy economic situation will only enhance the need for change, particularly in situations where: competitors are plunging ahead; customers are expecting even more for nothing; and employees are demanding similar levels of service and user experience from their enterprise, as might be expected for a consumer – which they likely are. Some very interesting times lie ahead.

Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE