Mirror mirror on the wall...

With IOS 9 you can track your sexual life... Credit: Apple

Once upon a time it was:

Mirror mirror on the wall who's the fairest of them all?

Now it is:

Data Analytics.

Data are piling up at an incredible pace and we are learning to extract, and in several instances create, information. I mentioned a week ago that Foursquare by looking at the pedestrian walking in the vicinity of Apple Stores around the world have been able to predict the number of iPhones that would have been sold in the first week-end.

Amazing, and yet we are just beginning to scratch the potential of data and how to leverage them. The world economics is going to be reshaped by this evolution, as it was pointed out yesterday at the EIT Digital Data Economy event at Milan EXPO 2015.

Data economy is a totally new sort of game, with different rules and different issues, that require the development of a new culture. And, as it was pointed out at the EIT Digital event, we need to get prepared.  

Education is a big factor. We need Data Scientists, there is a (growing) demand that is not met by the present schooling system. But education is needed not just for those that are focussing on the data economy. The data economy is pervasive and there is need to educate everybody, because new business (as well as transformation of current business) will have to leverage on the data economy.

There is also culture. Even youngsters that seem so at ease with the data deluge miss the cultural instrument to manage it.  Many publish their life on the web and do not realise that they lose control over the use of those data.

The Apple IOS 9 has extended the features of the "health" application, allowing the owner to insert data on his/her sexual activity. This seems to be under control of the user but wait a moment. The Apple Watch (and software that can be associated to it) is potentially able to fill in the data automatically, as long as you wear it during your "activities".

Or look at the Vital Signs app developed by Philips (see the clip). You can use the camera of your smart phone to look at you and the app is able to detect your pulse and respiration rate. There is also a "Valentine" feature that let you and your partner look at the camera and the software will compare your heart beat and respiration rate, which in turn might be used to tell how engaged you feel one another... (Philips provides plenty of disclaimers in fine little print...). 

It might look like fun, but is it really and most important, will it continue to be fun? Potentially these data might be shared on the web, they might be hacked... You may be losing control over a part of your life that you would rather maintain control.

I am using these examples just to stimulate thinking. Indeed there are many other aspects of our life that might seem appropriate to disclose here and now ... that would turn out not to be so at a later time.

For sure the mirror of my youth was way less accurate but much more neutral!

In a way it is scaring. On the other hand this minefield is rich in opportunities to better our life and generate business.

In the closing remarks Chahab Nastar, EIT Digital CSO, said it clear:  we will progress in the data economy if we will be able to manage the concerns and leverage the opportunities. This, indeed, is the challenge. 

Killing the data economy to avoid concerns, will deprive us of the opportunities (and it won't be possible since somewhere else there will be entrepreneurs ready to leverage those opportunities). The EIT Digital has a responsibility in fostering the data economy and make it right.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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