We appear to be on the cusp of the next step in the information revolution, a movement that is no longer simply defined by access, but one that is increasingly about creating deeper context and actionable knowledge. While the insights gained from aggregating and analyzing vast pools of data have been available at the enterprise level for a long time, there has been a marked shift towards scaling this process and making it available at the level of the individual.
This has been driven by a combination of technological factors — the ubiquity of mobile devices (information conduits), advances in algorithms (number crunchers), more networked objects (internet of things) and the availability of cheaper sensors to capture information like location, movement, temperature and performance that was previously lost (data exhaust) – but perhaps more importantly, have been the changing cultural attitudes that have developed in tandem.
As people’s online behaviors have transformed from anonymous to public and social, we’ve seen a growing awareness (arguably slower in the US than elsewhere) around privacy concerns and control, which has resulted in questions about who really owns this data and what it is truly worth? But putting these larger issues aside for the moment, the upshot of this debate has been a push for more transparency from corporations, governments and institutions, who hold much of this data and a willingness to open up these streams to encourage innovation, ultimately providing truly useful services from it. These more above the board transactions — your personal data X in exchange for added value service Y — stand to benefit all the players involved, whether that be access to more reliable information to design a targeted marketing campaign or a more relevant selection of streaming movie recommendations.
With the stage set for more innovation, we decided to highlight several projects we’re excited to see evolve in the year ahead.
Open Government, Engaged Citizenry
New York City continues to push forward its agenda to create city services that are both collaborative and more useful for its residents with its Open Data initiative, which makes available hundreds of public data sets produced by City agencies and other City organizations. In October, the city launched NYC BIGAPPS 3.0, a competition with a $50,000 cash prize that challenges software developers to create apps that use city data to make NYC better. Submissions are being accepted through January 25th.
DIY Internet of Things
David Carr and John Kestner, two graduates from MIT’s Media Lab, have partnered to start Supermechanical, a company with a mission to create products and experiences that connect people and objects. With their latest venture, Twine, the pair hopes to enable anyone to make the world around them more social and interactive. The system consists of a small, battery-powered square that contains internal and external sensors and provides WiFi connectivity, along with a simple web-interface, called Spool, for programming desired outcomes. The project, which has raised more than ten times its target funding on Kickstarter, will enable any object to start tweeting, texting or emailing.
Gaming the Real World
AntiMap is an open source tool kit and mobile application that allows people to record their movements using the GPS and Compass sensors in their smartphones and output the data to sync with videos or create interesting visualizations. Originally intended for snowboarders interested in capturing stats from their runs, the app now works for a variety of adventure activities from mountain biking to driving, reporting on altitude, longitude, compass direction, speed (km/h), distance (km/s) and time (milliseconds), along with an optional input field for users to capture additional data of their own choosing.
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A big thank you to our partner Intel, who is supporting this multi-part series about the role technology plays in all of our lives. Intel is dedicated to delivering the cutting edge tech innovations that allow us to turn our ideas and inspirations into reality.