People are now quite familiar with cloud computing, but in the near future, we are going to hear more and more about "big data", given the fact that humans created more data in the last two years than throughout our entire history.
There is a lot of buzz around big data _ a term referring an incredibly large and complex sets of data coursing through the globe and the attempt to analyse and manage it. Not only for commercial value, big data can be used to benefit society and individuals, said Steve Leonard, senior vice-president of EMC Corporation. Big data is something that can be related to social improvement, food and health, education, surveillance, climate change and more.
Leonard pointed out that a baby born today will generate in his or her lifetime 70 times more information than the amount available in the US Library of Congress.
EMC is the primary sponsor of "The Human Face of Big Data" project, a globally crowd-sourced media project produced by Against All Odds Production. The project is a global effort to introduce the human race to the transformative role that big data will have on the way we all live, learn, govern, work and play. The project will show human stories and images _ what big data is already doing to change our world, and foreshadow some of the ways it will impact us in future.
It will also use big data as a cornerstone of its approach by bringing together millions of people to act as "human sensors" for a day, providing real-time information about their thoughts, actions, opinions and experience over a 24-hour period this year.
Key major components of the project include a human sensor (through a smartphone app), a visual record of big data in action, the "Mission Control" experience, data visualisation kit and press and social media outreach.
The project introduced "The Human Face of Big Data" mobile app on Sept 26 and invited people to share ideas and compare their responses with others around the world. Using web and mobile devices to gather a digital mosaic of life on planet Earth in one 24-hour period, people will answer questions and provide data from their devices that help illustrate how we all live, move, learn and communicate during that single rotation of the planet.
Some 100 journalists have blanketed the globe to capture stories of big data in action. They will use these stories to show us how the power and insights of big data are changing the way we think and live today and _ just as important _ how this phenomenon, which is still in its infancy, may grow and evolve to be an even more powerful force to improve the human condition. Their works will be captured in a paper book and an e-book, and used in presentations, video and other content.
The "Mission Control" events, which were held simultaneously last week in London, New York and Singapore, showed how this trove of information is coming together, along with access to the data scientists who can help unlock insights contained in our massive digital repositories.
The event in Singapore showed the demo of human stories and images, and what big data is already doing to change the world.
Kristen Kloeckl, research scientist and real time city group lead at Senseable City Lab showed a demo on how the data collected from various companies in Singapore _ taxi and train service providers, gas and power service providers, Singapore Land Transport Authority _ can be visually represented and made use of to improve services in the country.
Singapore was chosen as one of the three cities in the project because of its modernity, government projects and active live data. Singapore is so data-enabled, according to Jon Murray, EMC director APJ, Office of Global Product Sales, that the government is already using big data and is collecting public feedback through portals and social media.
While big data will touch every aspect of life in some ways, the editorial team behind the project has selected stories that touch most often on the following themes: health and wellness (for instance, how is big data being used to eradicate global scourges such as cancer and Parkinson's disease, and to improve individual health and performance?), safety, crime and city life (how it is helping control crime, provide early warning for disasters, and ease traffic, congestion and pollution in our urban centres), environment (how big data is helping control pollution and reduce energy consumption), and society (how it is improving everything from dating services to movie reviews and giving us new views into history and behaviour).
TWEET TO THE WORLD
At the event in Singapore, EMC showed visualisations created by analysing global Twitter traffic and other datasets, to gain insights on the themes and stories brought to life by The Human Face of Big Data project. The team began with a data set of approximately 170 billion unique data elements derived from about one billion unique tweets.
Murray raised an example of "food". The tweets from around the world represent opinions on how we eat, on local produce, on organic food, on genetically modified food and so on.
"If you look at Indonesia, one of the common [subjects] is around sustainability of running the land _ there is a lot of discussion there. But if you also look, in Brazil it does not mean people not are interested in sustainability, but there is a lot about sustainability because of clearing the land or improving soil, so it depends on where you are in the world. The tweets are just raw data. This is not conclusive data, just opinion. This is endless possibility.
"The project applied Twitter because it represents people who use Twitter. The objective of one billion tweets was to show the broadness of the conversation of a single topic."
Why Twitter, but not Facebook? Murray said Facebook is more social, it's not for serious subjects, for areas of concerned debate. Typically, Twitter is more serious.
"I see that authorities are more compelled to act if there is a lot of Twitter activity, it means there [is a] social outcry about something. But at the same time, I've seen minor events escalate into large events because of social noise," he said.
"So far we haven't had the ability to collect data as quickly. What may have taken us years, now takes us weeks. The immediacy of decision making is so much better today. Previously, we analysed what we knew, now we analyse what we don't know _ that is one of the big differences."
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