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Big Data and Mobility Change the Way We Live

by Kevin Benedict

May 6, 2013

This week I read an interesting article titled, Mobile Phone Data Redraws Bus Routes in Africa.  Seems the MNO (mobile network operator) Orange released 2.5 billion phone records (anonymised data) from 5 million phones for an exercise on how Big Data could be used to improve lives.

The data was used by IBM's research laboratory in Dublin to determine how people could reduce travel times in the city of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.  They compared the locations of actual mobile phone usage with current bus routes, and then developed a plan to change the bus routes to more efficiently serve the actual locations of where people lived.  They reported there could be a 10% reduction in travel times by following their plan.

This is very interesting to me.  Instead of guessing how people live, travel and use their mobile phones - big data reports the facts.  If you combine telco data with actual public transportation data and other sources you can learn an immense amount about the world we live in, and thus how we can improve it.

I recently read about a research project that compared actual email flows to organizational chart structures.  The results showed that the people with the most influence (measured by numbers of emails sent and received) did not correlate with organizational charts.  In a social business, the most influential people are those with good information and the willingness to share it, not s imply those with company bestowed titles.

I am reading a book now called Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier.  In this book the authors write, "There is a treasure hunt under way, driven by the insights to be extracted from data and the dormant value that can be unleashed..."  So much information and data in the past has been on paper.  It has not been in a format that was digitized, searchable and able to quickly be analyzed.  The authors call the process of transforming information from paper to digits datafication.  Once information goes through datafication, immense amounts of interesting results can be found via big data analytics that can be used to find efficiencies, make our world a better place, or at least push the problems to someone else's neighborhood.

Many analysts are projecting that future increases in productivity are likely to come from big data analytics that can discover inefficiencies never before recognized.  It is going to be an interesting future!


Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant

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Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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