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I gave this lecture and led a discussion at the Future Insight summit in Oslo, Norway, March 13, 2014.
This was an introduction to subjects relating to the data-driven world, including a lengthier bit on the Quantified Self.
I improvised from the presenter notes.They give a pretty good sense of the contour of the talk.
In the Q and A session, people were mostly concerned about privacy implications of personal data collection.
My short answer is that I am also concerned, and think we need to broaden the discussion of privacy so that it transcends the concept of unwanted exposure and recenters itself on questions relating to the terms of exchange of personal data as they relate to social and economic value.
Possibilities and perils of the data-driven world.
THE QUANTIFIED SELF
IN A DATA-DRIVEN WORLD
Future insight 2020, Oslo, norway
March 13, 2014
My talk is going to be a romp through the data-driven world.
First I’m going to lay out some general ideas about data.
Then I’m going to offer up numerous examples of how data is being collected
And then I’m going to bring it all together with a discussion of the quantified
self and the promises and challenges it brings.
It’s common knowledge that there’s a lot of data and that its amount keeps
Data is becoming a ubiquitous experience. We are collecting data from
everywhere. And wherever we are, we can be more and more represented by
The purpose of my talk is to try to focus our attention on the larger story of the
I hope to trigger some provocative questions that we can take on together in
by sensing more.
So what is fundamental to the story of the data-driven world?
We’re expanding knowledge by quantitatively sensing more.
By sensing more, we know more.
This empowers us to act with greater precision.
QUANTIFICATION: MANAGEMENT AND MEASUREMENT
Quantification is directly connected to our ideas of progress. It’s the basis of
the scientific method. So it’s helpful to look at a quick modern history of
In the first half of the 20th century the quantification of production processes
led to scientific management.
It’s legacy is the notion that you can only manage what you can measure.
QUANTIFICATION: CENTRALIZED COMPUTING
Later in the 20th century quantification accelerated with the birth of modern
At first there were large-scale centralized computers.
QUANTIFICATION: DECENTRALIZED COMPUTING
Then computation was decentralized into the internet.
QUANTIFICATION: UBIQUITOUS COMPUTING
This led to cloud computing infrastructure and the related ubiquitous
computing, when embedded computation and sensors dissolve into the fabric
of everyday life.
By blanketing the world with sensors we’re coming to discover that anything
that happens. Anything that moves. Anything that changes….can produce
DATA = TURNING the analogue into the digital
Data is the product of using sensors to make the analogue world digital.
So when we, for example, use sensors to continuously measure moisture levels
in plants, we turn plant language into the human language of data.
OUR MODEL OF THE WORLD IS EXPANDING.
We’re doing this process of turning analogue into digital with so much more.
Like in this live satellite image that tracks the movement of container ships.
By turning more of the analogue into more digital data we’re actually
expanding our model of what can be accounted for in the human world.
At this point it’s appropriate to bring in Big Data.
Big data, a marketing-heavy concept, does help convey the potential of using
the right tools and knowhow to unlock insights from extra-large data sets.
Big Data is self-reinforcing. The more data one collects, the more one tends to
learn. The more one learns, the more one is compelled to find more data… etc.
Big data appear to be rebalancing power in favor of those who have data, can
get data, or know what to do with data.
This explains why so many companies value themselves based on the data they
Personalization: Recommendation ENGINE
Because of the increasing prevalence of Big Data, there’s often a kind of
intelligence operation being done on us.
This is a kind of tracking that has positively contributed to personalization,
such as recommendation engines, as you can see here in a screenshot of my
OPTIMIZATION: MORE EFFICIENT PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
And it’s led to pro-social optimization, such as more efficient public
transportation, as you can see from data showing commuting patterns in
Pervasive tracking exposes a major compromise in the data driven world. To
experience new technologies, and to live in a measurably improving world, is
to be intimately known by others through personal data.
personal measurement instrument (tinke)
Where does this personal data come from? Each new sensor we invent has the
potential to help us discover new things as well as to help others discover us.
Let’s start with the smart phone.
Smart phones haven’t been just communications tools for a long time. They
are now personal measurement instruments.
They are Quantified Self devices.
THAT LOOKS OUTWARD (COMPASS)
The immediate sensor array on a smart phone can look outside at the world
and detect things like temperature and pressure, location, magnetic fields and
THAT LOOKS INWARD (sleep cycle)
To the inside it can detect things like eye movements, physical gestures, sleep
quality, energy exertion.
I wanted to share with you a video of a product that plays with the idea of
balancing the looking at inner and outer worlds. (Wello)
It’s estimated that 100 million QS devices (/wearables etc.) are going to ship
Quantified Self sensors and devices can apply to very specific use cases.
They’re for every life stage.
mimo baby monitor
For measuring the respiration, heart rate and position of the baby.
Oral B “Smart Toothbrush”
For brushing our teeth.
For measuring and correcting our posture.
For measuring the activity levels of our pets.
For measuring our overall tennis game and the precision of our shots.
Sensoria “smart socks”
To measure our foot cadence, foot landing technique and weight distribution
on the foot as you walk and run.
For measuring environmental exposure, in this case to UV rays.
And the way that most people are getting into the Quantified Self is through
activity monitors. (Does anyone use fitbit, nike fuel or jawbone up?) (show
One interesting development in the quantified self is when personal data starts
to intersect with data from systems that we either operate or spend time in.
The connected car provides a couple examples.
The first is Automatic. It’s a dongle that attaches to your car’s computer that
beams performance data to a mobile phone. One can track both the
performance of the car and how efficiently one is driving it.
This has become valuable data for insurance companies who offer driver’s
discounts in return for monitoring how safely people drive their cars.
MERCedes + Pebble smartwatch
Mercedes is taking this one step further by making personal data a core part of
the driving experience. They’re syncing the pebble smart watch with the
vehicle’s information system. At first this is for information relay. But the next
steps it to begin assessing the relationship between the physiological
performance of the driver — such as levels of alertness — with the operation of
CONNECTED HOME: NEST
Another area where personal tracking and system tracking come together is in
what people call the “connected home.”
And as you have no doubt heard Nest sold to Google for 3.2 billion
Nest makes a smoke detector, but its main product is a thermostat.
NEST records very fine details of one’s energy use. It then applies learning
algorithm to helps people reduce energy consumption. This helps home
owners save money.
APPLIANCE USE VISUALIZATION
NEST actually knows whether or not your home. And it’s possible for it to
know which appliances you own and when you use them.
Nest plays a role in the burgeoning smart grid by communicating home energy
use in aggregate to electricity producers, helping them make energy
production more demand responsive.
Because Nest is owned by google, some people hypothesize that google could
connect what it knows about people from their email with what it knows about
them in their homes…
Disney: magic band
Another notable example of the intersection of personal tracking and system
tracking is what Disney is doing in their theme parks and hotels.
They’re investing a billion dollars in infrastructure for customer tracking.
It’s all anchored by what are called “Magic Bands.” These are RFID bracelets
that are associated with each unique visitor.
They track Where you go. What rides you go on. How long you wait in lines.
What you eat. When you eat. At what point in the day you get tired. When you
go to sleep. When you wake up…
Disney: magic band
The RFID Magic Bands open up vast possibilities for mass personalization.
An oft heard example is that the actors playing disney characters in the park
will have earpieces that instruct them greet visitor by name and even wish
people a happy birthday if it’s the occasion.
retail TRACKING: “Euclid ANALYTICS”
We’re seeing a similar world of tracking develop in the world of retail
Wandering down a store aisle is becoming like clicking through an online
Companies are now able to track us seamlessly as we transition between our
online and offline lives.
Euclid analytics measures foot traffic in bricks and mortar retail stores. By
intercepting mobile phone pings they can know how we move their stores.
retail TRACKING: Brickstreamretail TRACKING: “BRICKSTREAM”
And another company called Brickstream records 3D video of shoppers and
promises “Accurate behaviour analytics for physical spaces.”
workplace tracking: hitachi business microscope
final example of tracking I wanted to share with you is in the workplace.
Managers now track quantitative track their employees.
A recent and controversial example is the Hitachi Business Microscope. It’s
has the form-factor of a name badge and monitors employee behaviour such
as movement and speech. It can see who employees talk to and for how long.
How effective they are at getting their point across by listening to the intensity
and tone of the voice. And it also records ambient data like light and
the quantified self
You can see how in some cases giving people the ability to track themselves
can be empowering.
In other cases the tracking is exclusively external, and is more about asserting
control over people and environments.
In the Quantified Self, it’s the individual who’s in control.
By way of introduction to the Quantified Self I wanted to show you a video that
captures a lot of the exuberance/hysteria about the subject, while actually
hitting on many of its major points. (Jason Silva)
“the year of the quantified self”
So QS is really hot right now. The press named 2013 and 2014 the year of the
quantified self. And the space for QS devices (wearables and digital health) at
the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show doubled this year.
Bangkok | Beijing | Beirut | Dubai | Seoul | Shenzhen | Singapore | Taiwan | Tokyo
Calgary | Montreal | Ottawa | Toronto | Vancouver | Victoria
Aachen | Amsterdam | Athens | Berlin | Berlin (English) | Brussels | Bucharest | Budapest | Cologne
Copenhagen | Czech Republic | Dublin | Edinburgh | Geneva | Groningen | Hamburg | Helsinki
London | Maastricht | Milan | Munich | Oslo
Rio | Buenos Aires
Sydney | Melbourne
Albany | Atlanta | Austin | Bay Area | Berkeley | Boston | Boulder | Chicago | Dallas | Davis | Denton | Denver | Grand Rapids
Hawaii | Houston | Huntsville | Lansing | Louisville | Los Angeles | Marin | Memphis | Minneapolis | Nashville | New York
North Bay | Philadelphia | Phoenix | Pittsburgh | Portland | Raleigh | Reno | Sacramento | Salt Lake City | San Diego
San Francisco | Santa Barbara | Scottsdale | Seattle | Silicon Valley | South Florida | Tahoe | Vermont | Washington DC
It’s important to clarify something at this point. The phrase “Quantified Self”
is used to describe apps and devices for self-tracking.
But QS is also an actual community. That’s how it started. It is a loosely
coordinated global network of tens of thousands of people with over 100
chapters in over 40 countries. And yes, there’s a chapter in Oslo.
“Behind the allure of the Quantified Self
is a guess that many of our problems come
from simply lacking the instruments to
understand who we are.”
-Gary Wolf, Founder
As founder Gary Wolf says: “Behind the allure of the quantified self is a guess
that many of our problems come from simply lacking the instruments to
understand who we are.”
Now that more and more data collection instruments are appearing, the QS
community acts as an advanced user group to experiment with discovering
new things from personal data.
Using personal data we can achieve enormous personal improvement, in areas
Let’s look more closely at someone incredibly advanced in the QS community,
the prominent American scientists Larry Smarr, who is the on the advisory
board of the QS and is also an avid self-tracker.
Recall details of Larry’s story…
Video of Larry Smarr, QS conference at Stanford 2012
It gets interesting when we
Self-tracking gets especially interesting when we track together.
Why? Because many important phenomena are shared or distributed across a
population. For example, Health is not something that exists inside of each
one of us alone. Both illness and wellness are contagious. Many of us share
genes, microbiomes and lifestyles.
Many of us also share a common environment.
Macroscope: Something that helps us see what
many of the small actions look like when
And so the great promise of all of the self-tracking is to build what some call a
John thackara: “Macroscope: Something that helps us see what the
aggregation of many small actions looks like when added together”
Macroscopes will have great public benefit. They’re like a big data for
everyone. So let me offer a few examples, some old and new.
Based on pachube. Internet of things for geiger counters.
Now let’s look at a large scale tracking project for social good which benefits
the individuals who contribute their personal data. The Asthmapolis project
gives people with Asthma inhalers with GPS trackers to help them understand
the patterns in where they tend to suffer symptoms.
When all the individually tracked data is considered together, a map with
patterns of air quality emerge that can shows everyone with Asthma which
areas of the city to avoid. As a whole Asthmapolis helps us all to see the
relationship between geography and public health.
I believe in the vision of the data-driven world that I’ve presented so far, but
there are some challenges in the way.
1. Data Fragmentation
Data is something that organizations tend to keep tight hold of. Which means
that data sets which can shed light on each other, or positively compound
other data sets often times don’t meet.
To overcome this we data ecosystems that allow the convergences of data sets.
Some are in development. (elaborate…)
personal data ecosystem
For people there are personal data ecosystems where one can store, protect
and even sell ones personal data. This is something that World Economic
Forum has increasingly supported.
OPEN DATA MOVEMENT
There’s also a growing open data movement where data sets created by the
public are made accessible to all.
DATA FROM OBJECTS: “THINGSPEAK”
As for the internet of things, we’re a long way off from an open data
ecosystem, but there are many examples, including Thingspeak.
The only way that we can all share in the benefits of a world with more
personal data flowing is if there’s a proportionate rise in Trust. Trust is vital if
we are to participate in welcomed tracking regimes. We must have trust that
outside parties, who seek to know more about us, will keep our best interests
Privacy, which was once easy to attain, is now effectively a luxury good.
It costs a lot in time and money to ensure one’s privacy. And even if you can
afford it, it’s not certain that these methods work.
The only way to have privacy guaranteed is to opt out of technology. And if
people do this, there’s no question the economy would be adversely affected.
4. Data/Information Literacy
In a data-driven world people need to know more about data.
Data/information literacy will be a necessary tool for the future workforce. But
it will also be crucial for everyone who wants to keep abreast of the data-
driven decisions and data-rich interactions that will only become more
pervasive and significant.
I look forward to your questions and comments.