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Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing, Chris is the cofounder of Successful Workplace. He believes there’s no end to what we can change and improve. Chris is a marketing executive and flew for the US Navy before finding a home in technology 17 years ago. An avid outdoorsman, Chris is also passionate about technology and innovation and speaks frequently about creating great business outcomes at industry events. As well as being a contributor for The TIBCO Blog, Chris contributes to the Harvard Business Review, Venture Beat, Forbes, and the PEX Network. Christopher is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 249 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

One Man's Trash is Another Man's Big Data

11.09.2013
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one-mans-trashIn 2012, the Senseable City Lab, part of MIT, conducted an experiment called Trash Track to see just what happens when someone takes out the trash. By attaching transmitters to over 3,000 pieces of rubbish they were able to track where that item went, whether they went to the correct recycling facility or not, and how far they traveled.

TrashTrack uses hundreds of small, smart, location aware tags: a first step towards the deployment of smart-dust – networks of tiny locatable and addressable microeletromechanical systems.These tags are attached to different types of trash so that these items can be followed through the city’s waste management system, revealing the final journey of our everyday objects in a series of real time visualizations.

The results were eye opening, as you can imagine, and as the website suggests, it highlights that we know so little about the end of the process and too much about the supply chain. You could argue this for every industry.

But it’s this kind of big data that can help cities manage resources more effectively, reduce costs and carbon footprint.

Now move to the story in the papers last week about the Renew bins in London.

It came to light that a dozen of London’s recycling bins fitted with digital screens were tracking each smartphone and device that connected to them with WiFi. It allowed advertisers to deduce whether the same phone – although not necessarily the same person – is passing by. By recording the MAC address, it was then possible to track when a phone reconnects. The bins could track speed and location, potentially allowing personalized advertising that even adapts according to user behavior. The City of London has since taken this matter up legally because the Data Protection Act forbids this kind of snooping.

But these two use cases, both about trash, highlight a massive divide in how big data and analytics is being applied. It seems that there are only pockets of real-world and intelligent use of these technologies being applied whereas it’s all too easy and convenient to harvest information for “personalized advertising” purposes.

What would you rather have? An advert about milk as you pass by a shop, or the fact that your local authority will cut your annual cost of living by redesigning their processes to be more efficient?

We have a long way to go to get rid of the mindset that data is all about marketing and advertising.

One man’s trash is another man’s big data, after all.

Published at DZone with permission of Christopher Taylor, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)