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Wifi password please?

February 13, 2013 at 12:05 am PST

Back in the days, I was one of those students who wanted the most up to date scientific calculators and the latest design of the Trapper Keeper notebook.  These days, it’s the wifi access the students want, to stay connected anytime, anywhere on their smartphones or tablets.

According to the Cisco Connected World Technology Report more than 40% of Gen Y (18-30 year olds) “would feel anxious, like part of them were missing” if they couldn’t check their smartphones.  I was chatting with my colleague Rochelle Brocks-Smith from the Healthcare team the other day and she was joking that soon, her kids will develop carpal tunnel syndrome with all the texting they do! image_gallery
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The Extrasensory Enterprise: Turning Data Complexity into Advantage

By Shaun Kirby, Director, Innovations Architecture
Internet Business Solutions Groupshakirby-lg

If anyone still doubts the overwhelming complexity of today’s data deluge, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, offers some poignant perspective. In a recent book, “The Human Face of Big Data”, he observes that from the dawn of civilization until 2003 humankind generated five exabytes of data. Now, we produce more than five exabytes of data every two days.

Those torrents of information may be intimidating, but they also promise great opportunities. Indeed, Big Data has been touted as an answer to many problems. Looking for customer buying patterns? Retailers have petabytes of purchasing history. Need to test a new drug? There are terabytes of patient data to be analyzed. Launching a new product? A mountain of social media data awaits you. Read More »

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The Smartphone Gets Which Side of the Bed?

A whopping 90% of young people use their smartphones to help them face the day …often BEFORE they get out of bed.

Even before a cup of coffee, young people grab their smartphone. They’re checking it for emails, texts and social media updates. The phone has become as much a morning ritual as the toothbrush.

When the recent third annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report surveyed 3,600 young people ages 18-30 from 18 countries about their tech habits, we found that Gen Y’s attachment to phones continues throughout the day:

  • 3 in 4 check their phones in bed;
  • More than a third check it in the bathroom (not sure which one makes me more
  • 46% text, email and check social media during meals;
  • 60% say they’re ‘compulsive’ about checking their smartphones and 42% admit to feeling ‘anxious’ when disconnected;
  • Two-thirds say they spend the same amount — or more time — with friends online as they do in person.

My Aha! moment from this study?  I may be a Boomer, but I’m not much different.

The gap between my generation and younger ones in how we use technology is getting smaller. (In fact, my smartphone is always the first thing I touch in the morning…because I use it for my alarm clock!)

Interestingly, as we older folks are getting more comfortable with technology (and seeing its value), younger people are getting less starry-eyed. For example, more than a third suspect that people present themselves differently online than in the physical world. This year’s study also found three out of four don’t trust Internet sites to keep their data private, and nearly a third are very concerned about security and identity theft.

This younger generation’s relationship with technology is really maturing. The first year we did this report, many Gen Yers were convinced that the Internet was more important than dating or having a car.

The results from Connected World are truly global. In India, for example, 96% use their smartphone first thing in the morning. Use our interactive map on to hover over any country and get its stats. Here’s the snapshot for the U.S.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 4.42.44 AM

Another of the report’s interactive graphs is discovering your “data footprint” — or how much YOU are on your devices. Are you an explorer, highly connected or — like me-- a super user?  Go here to do the test!

Here’s another way I see myself reflected in this year’s Connected World report. For many of us, there’s no clear line between work time and personal time. Work is what we do, not where we are. I used to have two phones -- one for work and one personal. Now I have one phone for both. It’s truly an integrated life.

When it comes to shopping during the holidays, many of us mix our physical world with the online world, too. Cisco’s study found 90% of the young people surveyed shop online and 58% rely on customer reviews online. Oftentimes, we go into a store, price compare on our phones (or tablets), and complete a purchase on them before we leave.

We’re in a connected world. Our phones and all our network-connected devices are becoming an intrinsic part of ourselves. Now we just have to decide which side of the bed our phone gets.

Check out all the findings from the study here on the Connected World site. As always, we’d love your comments!

Happy holidays!


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Putting a Human Face on Big Data at the Social Innovation Summit

December 4, 2012 at 7:28 am PST

Today, everyone at Cisco is excited about the release of a new book — “The Human Face of Big Data” by Rick Smolan, a former Time, Life, and National Geographic photographer best known as the creator of the “Day in the Life” book series.

Cisco is a sponsor of the Human Face of Big Data Project, which also inlcudes a “Data Detectives” youth program and a smart phone application that allows users to compare their answers to questions about health, family, dating, dreams and more to 3 million other people around the world.

The book captures in photographs, essays, and infographics how the real-time collection, analysis, and visualization of vast amounts of information is enabling people to address some of the world’s biggest challenges.

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Is there a human face behind big data?

As more devices, people and things become connected to the Internet, an unprecedented amount of data will be generated: data which can become a powerful tool for solving some of the greatest challenges facing our planet.

I joined well-known photojournalist Rick Smolan and other speakers in New York City at Mission Control last month to share my thoughts on how to turn data into wisdom, and the importance of capturing data in real time. Rick has worked at Time, Life and National Geographic and is the creator of the popular Day in the Life book series. In his most ambitious project to date, he is now tackling the subject of big data in the Human Face of Big Data project.

The project’s premise is that real-time visualization of data streaming in from satellites, billions of sensors, RFID tags, GPS-enabled cameras and smart phones, is beginning to enable us — as individuals and collectively as a society — to sense, measure and understand aspects of our existence in ways never before possible. Cisco is co-sponsoring this project as we believe we are entering an era of the “Internet of Everything” which will bring data as well as people, process and things together to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before.

We talked with Rick about what the project is discovering.

Q:  Rick, I was wondering what originally inspired you to begin the Human Face of Big Data project?

Rick Smolan:  When I was a photographer earlier in my career, I had this idea of gathering together a tribe – of my heroes, friends and some young journalists – to focus their amazing abilities to tell stories about one country, in just one day. So we started the Day in the Life books, which became very successful.

And then I thought what if you use that same idea to do deep dives on emerging topics? So we published 24 Hours in Cyberspace and the Blue Planet Run book about the global water crisis, and also covered studies on the microprocessor and healthcare.

This last year, the phrase I kept hearing from my friends in the technology world was “big data”. At first I just thought it was one of those buzz words that was going to come and go. But the more I asked, the more interested I got.

Q: What interested you specifically about big data?

Rick Smolan:  I think the best big data description I heard from anybody was from Marisa Mayer, an old friend and now the CEO of Yahoo!, who told me that she saw this as the planet developing a nervous system. That really got me interested.

The amount of data being collected by people and machines right now is more than anything we’ve ever seen. She pointed me to Eric Schmidt at Google who said all the information generated by the human race from the dawn of humanity to 2003 was five exabytes, and that we’re now generating that amount every two days. That was the first time I understood the magnitude of it. I thought, “Now that’s interesting, but our challenge is figuring out how to show the connections back to our parents, our children and our day-to-day lives.”

Q:  How were you able to resolve that challenge?  We often think of big data as mainly affecting the businesses who are analyzing all that data?

Rick Smolan:  The ultimate goal of this project was to get people – ordinary people – not just governments and corporations, but ordinary people thinking about what it means for the world to start waking up with a sort of nervous system that’s coming to life. Who’s going to affect it and control it and who owns the data each of us is generating, that’s about us and is created by us.  I’m hoping this book will inspire those conversations.

Q:  What’s the potential for harnessing data to improve the daily life of an ordinary person?  How do you see that playing out?

Rick Smolan:  There are so many examples, but here’s one of my favorites. Right now when you visit a doctor, you’re given a one-size-fits-all prescription:  “You have an ear infection, take this antibiotic.”  The doctor doesn’t look at your particular DNA and prescribe a drug that was suited for your body and your particular version of that infection. Soon, with affordable genetic sequencing, we may be able to get personalized medications and treatments in ways we can’t even imagine today.

There’s a smartphone application called that can predict two days in advance when you are likely to get depressed based on patterns it builds from your behaviors in 15 different areas. This is important knowledge for people with diabetes, who have a very high correlation with depression. If you’re depressed and you’re a diabetic, you are less likely to adhere to the schedule for your medicines — which can have serious consequences. A lot of insurance companies are very motivated to help diabetics take their medications, and provide tools like this to help people.

Here’s another example. For years airport radar operators cursed the radar noise caused by birds, bats and insects. About six months ago, a group of scientists suddenly realized that we’ve been throwing away 15 years of migration pattern data about birds. One person’s garbage and noise is another person’s goldmine.  We’re seeing this over and over again where all of a sudden something that no one expected pops out of data in a way that’s delightful, profitable or life-saving.

Q: You said you’re concerned about who owns the data. What did you mean by that?

Rick Smolan:  I’ll give you an example. I met a gentleman who has a defibrillator that regulates his heartbeat. It has a wi-fi type connection that transmits data to his doctor wirelessly throughout the day. He started measuring his exercise, his diet, when he drank wine, all different aspects of his daily behavior, so that he could see if there was a correlation between when his pacemaker kicked in and how much sleep he got, how much wine he drank, how much exercise he was getting, what kind of food he was eating, and so forth. When he asked for a copy of his pacemaker data from the device’s company, they refused, saying they owned the data. He said, “Wait! This is my data, you’ve been recording my heart. I want a copy of my data.” But they refused.

So the point of the Human Face of Big Data project is to show people all the things of our lives that can be improved by using big data. It’s all in the early stages or the “caveman era” of big data. But this is exactly the time we should be thinking about what this means, who’s controlling data, who’s setting up the regulations about our data, who’s profiting from it, and what say we have as individuals in the use of the data that’s being collected.

Q: One of your projects is an interactive survey called Data Detectives, aimed at students in grades 6 through 12.  Why did you choose to target that age group, and how do you see this project helping students to understand the role of data in their lives?

Rick Smolan:  It’s like the old joke that it’s really hard to describe water to a fish because it’s part of their daily life. Kids today have access to the Internet and data as part of their daily lives. I have a 10-year-old and 12-year-old so I’m immersed in it. The other night my daughter said, “Dad, is it true that most orange cats are male?” And I said “I don’t know, let’s find out.” And so a minute later, we were looking at a video on the Internet talking about genetics and cats and why most orange cats are male. And that, of course, makes the kids more curious, and they ask the next question.

They’re living in a world where you’re curious about something and then have the instant ability to satisfy that curiosity. It’s so different than the world I grew up in.

But back to your question, I wanted to give kids in the 6 to 12 grade group a sense of discovery and the ability to compare themselves and tell their stories. We’re asking kids to answer a short series of questions but use filtering technology to show that their answer is just one answer to a question — because it depends on your perspective. For example, I’m really curious to know how first-born children answer a question compared to others, or children who have strict parents, children who grew up with a doctor as a parent, or as the youngest in the family. It gives kids the ability to drive the data themselves and navigate through the information which other kids have provided. And it’s all story-based, which I think will be delightful and fun.

Q:  After talking to so many people, conducting all this research, and living with the project for so long, how do you feel about big data now?

Rick Smolan:  At the start, I heard people predict that big data was going to be bigger than the Internet, and it seemed like the usual sort of hype and marketing to me. But now that we’re toward the end of our journey on this project, I actually think the Internet was simply a stepping stone on the way to this. For most people it seems that the Internet emerged overnight fully formed. But of course we all know it was 20 years in the making, and in a lot of ways, I think big data is the same thing. This ubiquitous global network that we call the Internet is now letting all those sensors out in the world communicate with each other. This is just the beginning.



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