Week 7: Big Data and the future of online

In this week’s lecture Prof. Paul Moore spoke about a few different things starting with, “the future is mobile” and finishing with “big data is the new oil”, his views on privacy and data hoovering make him seem like a bit of a tinfoil hat, phone in the fridge kind of guy and I’ll elaborate more on that in a bit.

The number of global smartphone users is predicted to reach 2 billion in 2016 after almost getting there in 2015 at 1.91 billion. With these number doing nothing but increasing the idea that mobile is the future couldn’t be any more accurate. The Amazon originals series: Betas was a tv show based on the silicon valley app development smorgasbord and while it only lasted for one series it captured pretty well how the new economy is in mobile apps and services. there’s also random facts such as ‘about ten percent of the photos ever taken have been taken in the past 12 months’ which highlight the fact that with all these smart devices in our pockets there’s a lot of data being generated and who has access to it?

Mobile user statistics chart from eMarketer

In preparation for writing this blog post I thought I should read a few articles on so called ‘Big Data’ and one from the Guardian which talked about big data in relation to the latest and greatest thing: the Internet of Things, or IoT. This new buzz word/term is used when describing smart, connected devices and how they will affect our lives in the future. For example your watch can detect your wellbeing and talk to your phone which will in turn suggest diet changes or generate exercise regimes to fit around your schedule for that day which it of course knows as well. Or your phone knowing that you are on your way home so it talks to your home which switches on the heating for you arriving, and another concept which gets tossed around repeatedly is your fridge knowing what’s in it allowing it to suggest recipes or shopping lists. Many solutions, somewhat like the ones I just mentioned exist today such as nest thermostats but we’re not yet living fully connected lives, yet.

With so many devices communicating and generating data with sensors on everything I think it’s inevitable that someone somewhere will be monitoring it. It’s not all bad however because big data presents a unique opportunity, by properly utilising it we can come closer than ever to seeing into the future by predicting it, simply looking at where we’ve been to give us a better idea of where we’re heading. Oil rigs have over 32,000 sensors on them but the companies that run them only use them for fault detection whereas they could look at what was happening around the fault before and after it occurred, leading to a better understanding of the problem and maybe even preventing it in the future.

the same image everyone uses in blog posts about the internet of things

On a side note all the data is there the problem faced by a lot of big conglomerates now is how to process it, machine learning is allowing computers to use smart algorithms to analyze data streams and spot patterns and “behaviours” the question I have is how intelligent do we make these algorithms and how much control do we give them?

In class Prof. Moore also discussed social media and the media industry as a whole. Amazon has gone from being an online bookstore to doing almost everything else as well. And twitter want to be the new office water cooler where viewers can have live discussions about events as they are happening, channel 4 for example displays hashtags during a lot of their shows for audiences to use during it. X factor does it as well and this is really the only thing I use twitter for, that and britain’s got talent because a lot of the tweets about the worse contestants can be hilarious.

I think the takeaway from this lecture was that the future of online isn’t exactly clear and we should be warey but not arrfaid.

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