The Implications of Google Maps

The Atlantic’s article, “How Google Builds Its Maps – and What It Means for the Future of Everything” isn’t an article about Google Maps as much as it is about Google’s approach to handling data.  As one would expect, there is a lot more to the inner structure of Google Maps than a map from a satellite image.  The directions that you get when you ask how to get from point A to point B stem from a long line of logic problems, logic problems that Google would only know the answers to if Google had committed manpower to investigate the roads themselves.  The physical space that Google Maps allow you to navigate is filled with data that first must be combed for consistency.  Sure, first Google uses other maps with data inputs already, but Google’s commitment to correct data has sent their employees driving all across the world in order to build a massive dataset that is comparable to the physical world that we call reality.

This commitment to accuracy doesn’t just affect Google’s map interfaces, however; this type of thorough and dedicated investment in technologies and applications gives Google a competitive edge in other markets. Google’s strength is the utilization of information, and investments in such areas are helping Google gain an edge over Apple in the growing battle over mobile phones. In particular, The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal posits “geo data” in particular “will play an important role in the battle for mobile phones”. While geo data is becoming undeniably important in the mobile phone market, its usages and implementations have larger implications. Google’s large data management techniques as a whole indicate great potential for future developments in the overall field of data analysis.

Connection Revolution

If you had asked the computer scientists of the late 1960s, it’s unlikely that their theories regarding the effects of connecting the world’s computers via the Internet would bear any resemblance the interconnected world we live in today.  The Internet ushered in a digital age, and today we see the far-reaching effects of connecting computers together in every aspect of our daily lives.  Today, think-tanks at GE are now asking, “Why stop at computers?”

With the Big Data movement changing the way we look at raw information, GE is proposing connecting the vast multitudes of machinery to each other and to sensors.  In particular, GE has plans to attach a jet engine with a variety of different sensors to collect information that could potentially lead to improvements in design.  In fact, GE proposes that we could be doing this with all of our machines.  Though the technology needed to attach such sensors to all of our machines does currently exist, the initial buy-in is huge, and the investment is one that not many companies are likely to make in our current economic situation.  Though the current economic climate does dictate choosing one’s investments wisely, Automation World’s article “Can the Industrial Internet Unleash the Next Industrial Revolution” supports the investment, saying that even if such sensors were able to discover a mere one percent improvement, such a discovery could make a huge difference to a company’s economic situation; for example, a one percent increase in fuel efficiency for airline companies constitutes a $30 billion savings over the course of 15 years.  Optimizing these frequently overlooked aspects of business can create incremental improvements that propel our economy forward.  It’s simply a matter of applying big data concepts to things beyond traditional computing systems, and interpreting the data effectively.

Privacy and Big Data

Big data, while providing an amazing resource for businesses to optimize their sales and advertising, can also run the risk of invading a person’s privacy if not properly utilized. As FCW’s article “Big data affects hiring, privacy” points out, there is currently very little by way of regulation for the new and developing science of some Big Data collection processes.  To that end, it appears than many are uncomfortable with potential misuses of such information analysis.

As with most new business programs and techniques (in fact, as with most anything that sits on the cutting edge), there is currently very little legislation designed to regulate it and ensure the privacy of all participants. Some find this lack of legislation to be potentially problematic; theoretically, it implies that large, information-collecting companies are free to choose to sell participants’ personal information however and to whomever they please. Legislation regarding the use of such information does seem to be on its way, however.

The article does make an interesting offhanded remark that people of older generations are more bothered by the idea of this perceived invasion of privacy than those of the younger generations. This statement begs more explanation and possibly an article of its own; the effects that generational culture shifts have on the public’s perception of privacy issues are certainly ones that will continue to be the subject of future analysis and examination. Because of this emerging cultural difference, companies may well benefit from a greater understanding of and acting in accordance with this generational divide.

Big Data Analytics for Small Businesses

Rather than maintaining the trend of simply discussing Big Data principles as they relate to large companies and organizations, Forbes’ “Big Data Analytics: Not Just for Big Business Anymore” explores how smaller business can apply the tools of the information age in order to improve their sales.  The suggestions provided are well laid out, and clear examples are given so that that reader can easily grasp the scope of possibility; the article suggests that in order to effectively utilize Big Data, small businesses must first “become full participants in the digital universe”, “present accurate information about [their] product and services to the customers online”, and utilize analytics to “provide important insights into who the customers are, their interests, and their ‘hangout spots’” online.

I have to say that the article really furthered my excitement about Big Data as a whole. Ultimately, it suggests that not just sales are trackable through technology, but the whims and desires of consumers as well, opening a whole new science of business optimization. Through the above-mentioned information gathering techniques, companies can the utilize Big Data to more accurately tailor their services to customer wants and needs. I would love to see more on the topic discussing the possibility for market prediction based on prior and present information being collected from product searches and Facebook likes.

I think that Big Data also represents a new level of competition between big and small business. Big businesses have massive resources at their disposal in order sift through huge amounts of information, whereas small businesses have to very quickly calibrate against the background noise of information to get to the heart of what they need almost immediately. To this end, I can see companies being formed strictly to help small business get in on Big Data. It’s very exciting being in a time when producers and consumers are communicating and optimizing almost as fast as the market changes.