Blog: Like it or not, you too are in the data industry
In November last year, I gave a speech at the Toronto Machine Learning Summit making the point that if we want to uncover the most promising insights from big data, we must drop our industry siloes and look for insights across industries. Data is everybody’s business. Yours, mine, the government’s, charitable foundations’ — everybody’s.
Not only is data the most lucrative opportunity of our age, it is also one of the best ways to add value to the economy. No matter what you sell, be it pins or pianos, you are in the information industry. Digital giants such as Facebook, Amazon, Google saw this coming — a long time back. Yet, most lay persons are only beginning to see this recently, once news of data breaches started becoming commonplace. Now of course, we already knew that Google uses information about which websites we browse to later send related ads our way. But did you know that in mid-2012, Walmart used the power of advanced analytics to figure out something surprising. When suddenly people started searching for ‘house’ on their website, they weren’t looking for real estate on the wrong website. Nor was there a sudden massive interest in home appliances or decor. Walmart’s smart analytics algorithms figured that customers were looking for DVDs of the popular TV show ‘House’ that was coming to an end around that time. As Walmart’s search results became “smarter in context”, guess what happened to sales?! Natural, language, processing.
Every company, city, system is generating massive amounts of information. It is easier and cheaper today more than ever, to make use of it; to expand the boundaries of what we understand — about our market, and beyond.