Date: 17.11.2010 16:30 - 18:00
Location: NESTA, 1 Plough Place, off New Fetter Lane, Holborn, London, EC4A 1DE
NESTA hosted a panel discussion on ‘The Power and Possibilities of Big Data’ as part of the Silicon Valley comes to the UK events and as one of NESTA’s Hot Topics series. On the panel were Megan Smith from Google, Max Jolly from dunnhumby, Haakon Overli from Dawn Capital and Hans-Peter Brondmo from Nokia, and Stian Westlake from NESTA chaired.
The speakers were challenged to think about the possibilities that big data makes possible, but they also covered the inevitable challenges.
Reams of data are all very well, but data is meaningless without intelligence and interpretation – a point made memorably by Hans-Peter’s opening introduction in Norwegian – a perfectly valid stream of data, but with little meaning for most in the room. There is a continuum that runs from raw data to insight, some structure put over the data, to knowledge, that draws out wider lessons. The web gives great access to data, but we are still a long way from knowledge.
The concept of a ‘digital soul’ was described as the electronic representation of yourself. Creating a model for ownership and control of this idea is the big challenge to companies that hold data, as well as individuals and regulators. As Megan Smith described it, we are in Model T Ford days at the moment – a great deal of development is yet to come.
Data is also something that can give you happy customers – something that Dawn Capital are very interested in, and also the big driver behind the Tesco Clubcard that dunnhumby conceived and runs. Letting customers speak through their data is which dunnhumby tries to do, allowing retailers to make fact-based decisions about what they offer.
Data was also described as a route to public good. Google.org is participating in a huge data capture effort, using Google Earth and their data center infrastructure to log deforestation in the Amazon, through satellite imagery, and also close-up tree identification.
As this trend expands and develops, there will need to be a huge emphasis on public data literacy, helping people to understand data, and to learn to control it in an informed way. Companies will need to remain conscious about how they use data – pressure from users may be the best way to keep companies honest, and they are likely to increasingly demand more transparency on where their data goes and how it is used.
The event is part of a series of events that NESTA is hosting as part of the annual ‘Silicon Valley comes to the UK’ programme.
This event is also part of our Hot Topics event series. Visit our Big Data resources page to see interesting and innovative examples, links and videos that relate to the topics to be discussed at the Big Data event. We would also love to hear from you if you have any suggestions or ideas for relevant case studies, talks or articles we may have missed.
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