data cloud

By Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker

The Interactive portion of SXSW has now ended. We can look back at our own pace on the topics that were introduced, and see how they might fit into our world. Much  food for thought coming out of SXSW has been the ongoing and expanding world of what I’m going to call “veillance,” rather than “surveillance,” reflecting the mindless machine nature of data collection, generally without the interference of a human overseer.

Speaking of surveillance, Edward Snowden’s address made for one of the biggest headlines focusing on the subject of data collection. Whatever the politics of the situation, we have certainly become much more aware of the perpetual collection of data about all of us. That data, over the time it has been gathered, has ballooned into more information on humanity than was amassed through the entire rest of our history. That’s an impressive fact all by itself. From the Wikipedia page on Big Data:

Big data

[1][2] is the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. The challenges include capture, curation, storage,[3] search, sharing, transfer, analysis[4] and visualization.

There is so much data that a whole industry is growing up around just managing it. Some of it is coming from the new ways we have of collecting more extensive data that layers on top of what marketing departments have been collecting for decades – who is buying what, when, and for what reasons.  Service providers want to know how they can better integrate their services into our lives, like Spotify, a music provider. One of the current trends in new technology development is finding new ways to use all this data – to turn it into actionable information. We are also finding more and more ways to take stories about ourselves and make them widely available through social media, while new technologies are luring us with  new ways to get us to share our stories.

Although all this data collection and analysis may seem a bit creepy, these trends are here to stay and are ripe with opportunities. While censorship and regulatory concerns are an issue, this is a great time for startups in these fields. The rising popularity of services that connect people to goods and other services is a similar model to data mining. It is all about finding the connections that add value to consumers’ lives. Don’t be intimidated by the flashing lights and technical jargon of the new world.  The underlying humanity of what drives these trends – the desire to share our experiences, the continual press for greater convenience and connectivity – is the guiding force, not the tools that enable them. If your distinctive competence is based in forming connections between people and services, you have a timeless asset to bring to the table.

So, with this planet’s worth of data, what is the next step? What are the best ways to meld the constant drives of mankind with what we can now learn about each man? The innovators will lead us to find out.

Ed McLaughlin is currently co-writing the book “The Purpose Is Profit: Secrets of a Successful Entrepreneur from Startup to Exit” with Wyn Lydecker and Paul McLaughlin.   Copyright © 2014 by Ed McLaughlin   All rights reserved.