We are now solidly in the era of big data, where computers are capturing and processing the details of everything we do with all our interconnected devices in real time. Businesses see this as the Holy Grail for finally being able to predict who, where, and when customers will buy their existing solutions, and what their future solutions must look like to be attractive.
By some estimates , humankind now captures the same amount of data in any two days than in all of history prior to 2003. That’s a lot of data, but the jury is still out on whether technology can make any sense of the data, or derive new meanings from it in our fast-paced and rapidly changing world. So far, we haven’t been very good at predicting the future in life or in business.
For me, the first step in understanding the potential is to better understand what human data really looks like as it comes in from all these sources. I found some help in this regard from a recent book, “ Humanizing Big Data ,” by leading consumer researcher Colin Strong. I will paraphrase here the keys ways he outlines that our lives are becoming increasingly datafied:
Datafication of emotions and sentiment. The explosion of self-reporting on social media has led us to provide very intimate details of ourselves. Many market research companies now use this data by ‘scraping’ the web to obtain detailed examples of the sentiment relating to particular issues, brands, products, and services.
Datafication of relationships and interactions. We are now not only able to see and track the ways in which people relate, but with whom they relate, how they do it, and when. Social media has the potential to transform our understanding of relationships by datafying professional and personal connections on a global scale.
Datafication of speech. Speech analytics is becoming more common, particularly as conversations are increasingly recorded and stored as part of interactions with call centers, as well as with each other. As speech recognition improves, the range of voice-based data and meaning that can be captured in an intelligible format grows.
Datafication of offline and back-office activities.;
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