I've spent a lot of time these past few months considering the changing role of data in our everyday lives. Never before have we been such consumers of data, nor have we been the subjects of so much data collection. Every time you pick up your iPhone or Blackberry, log onto Facebook, or email a friend a link to an interesting New York Times story or Sierra Club fundraiser, you're both using and sharing information with the world. As a result, the line between data generation and consumption continues to get blurrier, and with that, the very definition of "user/customer intelligence" is changing.
Much of my research, of course, has been focused on how marketers can make better use of data to tailor and target messaging more effectively. But I'm also fascinated by emerging uses of data to improve lives and infrastructure. As a result, not all of the examples I'm sharing are directly related to marketing -- yet. But each of the groups or people who follow are redefining our experiences with data, and its relevance to the world around us.
I was lucky enough to attend the CityCentered Symposium in San Francisco last month, where I heard Assef Biderman, the Lab's Associate Director, talk about four of their recent projects. Their Copenhagen Wheel project uses collected data about the rider plus real-time traffic and weather data to dramatically improve the experience of city bike-riding. Brilliant, right? But get this: as you ride, your data is continuously improving the entire community's experience, too.
Another project I find fascinating is Trash|Track. We all know how wasteful consumerism in America is, and it's no secret that we generate more trash than we have room for. Imagine, though, if you could actually track the progress of a piece of garbage that YOUR household generated during its "deathcycle." This MIT project tags ordinary pieces of trash with a small device using CellID triangulation. Participants in the project are able to see how very far some waste travels, and how long it takes to get where it's going. Now, consider whether you might be more likely to support a business who uses data like this to improve its sustainability scores, whether that means reducing packaging or implementing a recycling program for its last-generation products.