Big Data and The Age of Context: How will it Change your World?

| May 29, 2013

Social media, smartphones, geolocation, mobile, and clouds. The digital space is ever in flux and we all play a critical role in its evolution. What’s beyond the current landscape as we know it? That’s exactly what Robert Scoble and Shell Israel will be exploring in their new collaboration entitled The Age of Context: How it Will Change Your Life and Work. Scoble and Israel detail their vision for the next phase in the digital landscape by focusing on five trends they see occurring in the present:

  1. Proliferation of always-connected sensors.
  2. New kinds of cloud-based databases.
  3. New kinds of contextual SDKs (software developer kits).
  4. A maturing in social data that nearly everyone is participating in.
  5. Wearable computers and sensors.

Scoble and Shell are currently still writing this book, aiming to be published the first half of this year. This coincides with the release of the Google Glasses, in which they view the contextual age will come to light for the masses.

Defining Context

What is the core of contextual age? According to Scoble and Israel the root lies in a world of automation. The devices we use daily are getting smarter about the context in how we live. Applications can inform us of what, why, and when to take action based on our situational environment. The essence of context is framing the circumstances in which information is provided to us. It’s the narrative of consumer behavior; collected, analyzed, and outputted in relation to our everyday patterns. Have you noticed when conducting a particular search on Google that suddenly all those ads atop of your Gmail account or in search suddenly correspond exactly what you’ve just been researching?  Context. Or how Google, as described by Scoble, alerts you based on traffic data whether or not to leave early for an appointment.  Context. The foundations of this new era are already embedded into our everyday lives, in ways you might not think to question.

The Current State of Context

You’re an active participant in context and likely are unaware of your roll. On your weekly shopping trip to the market, are you sliding your rewards card to earn points towards coupons or discounted gas? With every swipe, your shopping habits are tracked and stored to provide personalized discount offers arriving in the mail a month later. Or most recently, how I received a political email on Election Day encouraging me to send messages to selected friends in key battle ground states pulled from Facebook. Big data is on the rise and the industry is beginning to plan how to best provide the structure and support to access and implement such data.

 

Introducing the Cloud Database

Where will all this data being collected about us be stored? Welcome to the Cloud. This is not a new term. Cloud is everywhere. Likely you know courtesy of Apple; seamlessly syncing photos, images, music, videos into one singular location, and giving your personal hard drive a much needed break. Cloud-based storage has huge implications in the data realm, and is being strategically planned for. Scoble details three cloud-based database companies pioneering their way into the next evolution.

 

Firebase

San Francisco based Firebase was founded from the engineering team at Envolve, a company that provides group chat services for websites. Firebase embraces the demand for real time data across multiple applications. Developers can utilize Firebase to build real-time web applications without the need to manage servers or write server coding. Data lives in a central location and is automatically synchronized with a developer’s clients and Firebase servers. This allows for a simplified application development experience without having to worry about the infrastructure supporting the app and data management. Cloud platforms have provided two separate functions: infrastructure and real-time data management. Firebase integrates both, making them a key player in the continued development of cloud-based services.

CloudBase

Lack of speaking in terms of a coder makes it a bit difficult to describe exactly what CloudBase offers. Let’s give it a go by breaking down a description excerpt from the CloudBased website:

“CloudBase creates a database system directly on flat files and converts input ANSI SQL expressions into map-reduce programs for processing flat files. Existing applications such as reporting programs, data mining applications using ANSI SQL, business intelligence tools, and OLAP systems can use CloudBase to access massive log files without the user having to rewrite the application program.”

ANSI SQL, OLAP systems, map-reduce for processing flat flies? Huh? Don’t worry I’m right there with you. Essentially CloudBase is a data warehouse system that allows business analysts using SQL to pull large data files from complex systems faster and more efficiently.  If large scale data can be pulled at a faster rate, this enables analysts to have more data to work with and make insightful recommendations in a timely manner. With a major change to their platform allowing for real-time searching, as Scoble highlights, CloudBase will continue on its way to become a highly beneficial tool in the data arsenal.

Pearltrees

Imagine everything you’ve ever possibly searched for or interacted with throughout the course of the day. Sometimes you may bookmark a particular article, post a link on Facebook, Tweet content, or Pin an image. Now what if all of this content you’ve interacted with could be collected and stored in one central location? Hello Pearltrees!  Data is organized into visualizations trees. You can create unlimited trees and organize content how you please. A nice feature is Related Pearltrees, which populates other trees in relationship to the content you store within your own trees. This allows you to discover rich content in relationship to your current interests. All individual pearls can be shared across the standard social media channels. There is much more exploring to be done within this platform. However, the ability to visually organize an endless amount of content in one location has tremendous potential for the masses, especially since there is a mobile version available. Bottom line, Pearltrees is pure fun.

 

What the Age of Context has in store for you

Why should you care about context and big data? The short answer: because it cares about you, your business, and your consumers. As the industry continues along the path of automation and begins adopting the trends of contextual SKDs, wearable computers and sensor technology, the importance of understanding potential implications becomes imperative.

“A new world is coming. It’s scary. Freaky.”
The coming automatic, freaky, contextual world and why we’re writing a book about it by Robert Scoble

What does this new world look like? According to Scoble, a few examples include toys that provide entertainment and change their interaction based on the surrounding environmental conditions. In addition retailers utilizing “algorithmic customer support” to anticipate consumer questions/satisfaction before you even enter a support queue. The automobile industry is thinking of ways to show you you’re journey before you embark.  How will companies be able to know so much about us?  Our lives, down to the finest detail, are being documented in this new contextual age. Even with opting out of certain programs on a surface level, data collection is still happening behind the scenes, and this process will continue whether we like it or not.

Big data is a gold mine for businesses of any size. The type of data being collected or “human data”, as Israel refers to it, is leading to a new field called predictive behavior. How is this beneficial for business? By utilizing human data, a business can become eerily familiar with their consumers, and tailor products or services based on predicted trends. In order to access this data we are effectively beginning to humanize the technology used to monitor our behaviors. Soon we will become so integrated with our humanized devices that the lines of independent thought, decision, and reason become blurred. If the development of these automated technologies continues to increasingly act on our behalf, what part do we then play as individuals?

Progress comes with consequences. Israel expresses concern over this new age, while Scoble views technology having a greater understanding of human behavior as providing a better user experience. Through data, the ability of businesses to understand their consumers in depth to become better engaged and greatly improve the products and services in which they provide has tremendous promise. However how will the process of this mass data collection resonate with the consumer? How many businesses now are truly engaged with data and using metrics to help shape business decisions? More evidence is coming to light that businesses are at an alarming rate not utilizing the powerful insights data can provide. Case in point a February 2012 CMO Survey showed that approximately only 32% of businesses rely on marketing analytics while 67% do not consider metrics prior to making business decisions. Are you using metrics to help measure the success of your efforts in the market place? Is your company discussing the importance of data or planning to implement the use of data to its full potential? How will your company play a role in and prepare for the looming Age of Context?

Both Scoble and Shell want to know the answers to these questions and want your help. Both authors rely and encourage open dialogue to help complete this book. For more information on the development of The Age of Context and ways in which you contribute, follow updates via Scoble’s blog Scobleizer (http://scobleizer.com/)  and Israel’s blog The Social Beat (http://blogs.forbes.com/shelisrael/).

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Social media, smartphones, geolocation, mobile, and clouds. The digital space is ever in flux and we all play a critical role in its evolution. What’s beyond the current landscape as we know it? That’s exactly what Robert Scoble and Shell Israel will be exploring in their new collaboration entitled The Age of Context: How it Will Change Your Life and Work. Scoble and Israel detail their vision for the next phase in the digital landscape by focusing on five trends they see occurring in the present:

  1. Proliferation of always-connected sensors.
  2. New kinds of cloud-based databases.
  3. New kinds of contextual SDKs (software developer kits).
  4. A maturing in social data that nearly everyone is participating in.
  5. Wearable computers and sensors.

Scoble and Shell are currently still writing this book, aiming to be published the first half of this year. This coincides with the release of the Google Glasses, in which they view the contextual age will come to light for the masses.

Defining Context

What is the core of contextual age? According to Scoble and Israel the root lies in a world of automation. The devices we use daily are getting smarter about the context in how we live. Applications can inform us of what, why, and when to take action based on our situational environment. The essence of context is framing the circumstances in which information is provided to us. It’s the narrative of consumer behavior; collected, analyzed, and outputted in relation to our everyday patterns. Have you noticed when conducting a particular search on Google that suddenly all those ads atop of your Gmail account or in search suddenly correspond exactly what you’ve just been researching?  Context. Or how Google, as described by Scoble, alerts you based on traffic data whether or not to leave early for an appointment.  Context. The foundations of this new era are already embedded into our everyday lives, in ways you might not think to question.

The Current State of Context

You’re an active participant in context and likely are unaware of your roll. On your weekly shopping trip to the market, are you sliding your rewards card to earn points towards coupons or discounted gas? With every swipe, your shopping habits are tracked and stored to provide personalized discount offers arriving in the mail a month later. Or most recently, how I received a political email on Election Day encouraging me to send messages to selected friends in key battle ground states pulled from Facebook. Big data is on the rise and the industry is beginning to plan how to best provide the structure and support to access and implement such data.

 

Introducing the Cloud Database

Where will all this data being collected about us be stored? Welcome to the Cloud. This is not a new term. Cloud is everywhere. Likely you know courtesy of Apple; seamlessly syncing photos, images, music, videos into one singular location, and giving your personal hard drive a much needed break. Cloud-based storage has huge implications in the data realm, and is being strategically planned for. Scoble details three cloud-based database companies pioneering their way into the next evolution.

 

Firebase

San Francisco based Firebase was founded from the engineering team at Envolve, a company that provides group chat services for websites. Firebase embraces the demand for real time data across multiple applications. Developers can utilize Firebase to build real-time web applications without the need to manage servers or write server coding. Data lives in a central location and is automatically synchronized with a developer’s clients and Firebase servers. This allows for a simplified application development experience without having to worry about the infrastructure supporting the app and data management. Cloud platforms have provided two separate functions: infrastructure and real-time data management. Firebase integrates both, making them a key player in the continued development of cloud-based services.

CloudBase

Lack of speaking in terms of a coder makes it a bit difficult to describe exactly what CloudBase offers. Let’s give it a go by breaking down a description excerpt from the CloudBased website:

“CloudBase creates a database system directly on flat files and converts input ANSI SQL expressions into map-reduce programs for processing flat files. Existing applications such as reporting programs, data mining applications using ANSI SQL, business intelligence tools, and OLAP systems can use CloudBase to access massive log files without the user having to rewrite the application program.”

ANSI SQL, OLAP systems, map-reduce for processing flat flies? Huh? Don’t worry I’m right there with you. Essentially CloudBase is a data warehouse system that allows business analysts using SQL to pull large data files from complex systems faster and more efficiently.  If large scale data can be pulled at a faster rate, this enables analysts to have more data to work with and make insightful recommendations in a timely manner. With a major change to their platform allowing for real-time searching, as Scoble highlights, CloudBase will continue on its way to become a highly beneficial tool in the data arsenal.

Pearltrees

Imagine everything you’ve ever possibly searched for or interacted with throughout the course of the day. Sometimes you may bookmark a particular article, post a link on Facebook, Tweet content, or Pin an image. Now what if all of this content you’ve interacted with could be collected and stored in one central location? Hello Pearltrees!  Data is organized into visualizations trees. You can create unlimited trees and organize content how you please. A nice feature is Related Pearltrees, which populates other trees in relationship to the content you store within your own trees. This allows you to discover rich content in relationship to your current interests. All individual pearls can be shared across the standard social media channels. There is much more exploring to be done within this platform. However, the ability to visually organize an endless amount of content in one location has tremendous potential for the masses, especially since there is a mobile version available. Bottom line, Pearltrees is pure fun.

 

What the Age of Context has in store for you

Why should you care about context and big data? The short answer: because it cares about you, your business, and your consumers. As the industry continues along the path of automation and begins adopting the trends of contextual SKDs, wearable computers and sensor technology, the importance of understanding potential implications becomes imperative.

“A new world is coming. It’s scary. Freaky.”
The coming automatic, freaky, contextual world and why we’re writing a book about it by Robert Scoble

What does this new world look like? According to Scoble, a few examples include toys that provide entertainment and change their interaction based on the surrounding environmental conditions. In addition retailers utilizing “algorithmic customer support” to anticipate consumer questions/satisfaction before you even enter a support queue. The automobile industry is thinking of ways to show you you’re journey before you embark.  How will companies be able to know so much about us?  Our lives, down to the finest detail, are being documented in this new contextual age. Even with opting out of certain programs on a surface level, data collection is still happening behind the scenes, and this process will continue whether we like it or not.

Big data is a gold mine for businesses of any size. The type of data being collected or “human data”, as Israel refers to it, is leading to a new field called predictive behavior. How is this beneficial for business? By utilizing human data, a business can become eerily familiar with their consumers, and tailor products or services based on predicted trends. In order to access this data we are effectively beginning to humanize the technology used to monitor our behaviors. Soon we will become so integrated with our humanized devices that the lines of independent thought, decision, and reason become blurred. If the development of these automated technologies continues to increasingly act on our behalf, what part do we then play as individuals?

Progress comes with consequences. Israel expresses concern over this new age, while Scoble views technology having a greater understanding of human behavior as providing a better user experience. Through data, the ability of businesses to understand their consumers in depth to become better engaged and greatly improve the products and services in which they provide has tremendous promise. However how will the process of this mass data collection resonate with the consumer? How many businesses now are truly engaged with data and using metrics to help shape business decisions? More evidence is coming to light that businesses are at an alarming rate not utilizing the powerful insights data can provide. Case in point a February 2012 CMO Survey showed that approximately only 32% of businesses rely on marketing analytics while 67% do not consider metrics prior to making business decisions. Are you using metrics to help measure the success of your efforts in the market place? Is your company discussing the importance of data or planning to implement the use of data to its full potential? How will your company play a role in and prepare for the looming Age of Context?

Both Scoble and Shell want to know the answers to these questions and want your help. Both authors rely and encourage open dialogue to help complete this book. For more information on the development of The Age of Context and ways in which you contribute, follow updates via Scoble’s blog Scobleizer (http://scobleizer.com/)  and Israel’s blog The Social Beat (http://blogs.forbes.com/shelisrael/).