10 Ways Data Is Changing How We Live

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The availability
of new sets of data has changed the way we live our lives: here
are 10 examples of data which have changed everything from how we
assess wars to how companies deliver milk.

Shopping

Supermarkets
have always kept track of how people shop, but in the last few years
the extent to which retailers collect data has rocketed. Tesco owns
a majority stake in Dunnhumby Ltd, which carries out data mining
and analysis for large group of retailers including Coca-Cola, BT,
Mars, Vodafone and other leading brands. Dunnhumby operates the
Tesco Clubcard scheme: using data collected from the scheme, Tesco
can
predict
when people will shop, how they’ll pay for their items
and even how many calories they will consume. Dunnhumby recently
reported a 32 per cent rise in operating profits to £53.4
million, and has grown from 300
employees at the start of 2007
to nearly
1,250 this year
. The data collected by Dunnhumby has changed
the way we shop.

Relationships

Dating site
OkCupid.com runs a regular
series of blog posts
analysing data from the site’s 3.5 million
active users. By collecting user profiles and site messages, it’s
possible to calculate everything from the perfect profile picture
(apparently, it’s the perfect profile picture is taken on a high
end camera, in the mid afternoon, without a flash) to the right
language to use when replying to messages ("your" beats
"ur", and "hot" is a turn-off, whereas "fascinating"
is a turn-on). The data has also shown that on average, users add
two inches to their height, and over-report their salary by 20 per
cent. The large datasets collected by dating sites have
also attracted academics
, so look out for more data-based date
advice in the future.

Business
deliveries

In the last
few years, advanced mapping tools have allowed businesses to use
data to increase the efficiency of their deliveries. Where companies
used to plan deliveries on paper and in small teams, they now use
advanced mapping software, routing data and live traffic information.
MapMechanics
produces several of these tools
, with its clients delivering
everything from the Yellow Pages to milk. Those clients now do their
deliveries using complex and live-updated views into data that used
to be limited to the shift manager’s desk.

Maps

The way people
find shops could also be about to change, thanks to a new view into
an existing set of data. Since Google introduced Street View three
years ago, rival services have since appeared from the likes of
Microsoft and Mapquest. Microsoft’s Bing Streetside (their version
of Street View) has been remixed by a group of researchers, turning
it into Street
Slide
. Street Slide takes the data from Streetside and turns
it into a strip of businesses with clickable logos and building
numbers. It’s a different and intuitive view into the average shopping
street, and could change window browsing forever.

Education

The LA
Times

has been running a story
based on new data that has shaken up
how schools are assessed in the city. Until now, parents have used
overall school test results to assess the quality of teaching at
local schools, which reflects the circumstances of the parents more
than it does the quality of the teaching. The LA Times obtained
data on test scores from 600,000 students between 2002 and 2009,
allowing it to calculate "value added" scores, or a measure
of the progress students have made between different stages of education.
This analysis shows that some schools have improved the academic
achievement of its students at a greater rate than other, more respected
schools. Although there have been questions raised
about the methodology behind the analysis
, it’s still a great
example of how new and previously unseen data can add a different
perspective on a subject that affects everyone’s life.

Read
the rest of the article

September
4, 2010

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