SXSW 2013: BIG Data and Personal Technology at SXSW

4153048(2)Big data isn’t new. We’ve been talking about it for years. What’s new is where it’s coming from and what we’re doing with it.

When it comes to personal information, the term big data used to be synonymous with Big Brother. Google, DoubleClick, pretty much anything you did online was tracked, categorized, and sold. The value exchange wasn’t there (or at least it wasn’t obvious)—so people resisted.

Today that’s not the case. Big data is still there, but we have a new rallying call: context. A personalized layer of technology is built on the aggregate data of yesterday and then combined with personalized data of today linked to deliver real value to users.

The wearable technology that generates personal data is a huge theme at #SXSW this year. Nike has Nike+ and the FuelBand to measure track activity, Oakley has Airwaves for real-time feedback to skiers, Artefact created a Pilates shirt that monitors body position, Google has Project Glass (which we all know), and now a live-feedback talking shoe.

Personal data stemming from mobile technology is in ready supply.  Think of all the things you tell your smartphone.  We list our friends and family in our contacts, we search and browse the Web for things that interest us, and we have favorite apps like Facebook we use all the time. Facebook alone captures tons of data on our likes, dislikes, interests, birthday, and several other demographics.  Gimbal, a mobile contextualization platform dubbed the “digital 6th sense” released by Qualcomm last year, does more than just track you—it uses this data to learn about you.

Indirectly, these devices come standard with a plethora of sensors. Our phones know where we are at all times, how fast we’re moving, in what direction, and at what elevation. They know where we came from, how long we stayed, and where we went next. All that plus the option to add even more personal sensors. Fitbit will track both your activity and your sleep; iHealth tracks your weight, blood pressure, heart rate, body fat, muscle mass, blood glucose, pulse oximetry, and much more.

These devices know everything from who our friends are to what food we like and what’s happening in our own bodies. And because we have begun experiencing the value of the data they collect, we’re okay with it.

Big data isn’t new. What’s new are the wearable and mobile technologies we use to track, optimize, and augment our daily lives.  We no longer fight big data, we contribute to it.

As the SXSW presenters of the Sensor Technologies: The Future of Health talk asked, can you imagine a world in which all your physiologic parameters were measured, monitored, and managed in such a way that you always maintain perfect health?  That world may be just around the corner.

Check out OCHWW’s other SXSW 2013 blog posts:

SXSW 2013: How Zombies Are Helping Us Get Fit

SXSW 2013: Small Data in a World of Big Data

SXSW 2013: The Mobile Healthcare Revolution

SXSW 2013: Bad Behavior – the Saga of SXSW

SXSW 2013: Empty Information Calories

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