People will do more with Big Data than big companies can

The history of computing over the last 30 years is one of lurches forward every time individuals got the power to do what only big enterprises could do previously — and to do a much better job of it.

It happened when computing got personal in the ’80s.

It happened when networking got personal in the ’90s.

It happened when both together got mobile and personal in the ’00s.

And it will happen with personal data as well in the ’10s.

We as individuals will be able to do more with our own data than big enterprises can. Meanwhile, nearly all the “big data” jive today is about what only big companies can do. Yet we’ve seen this movie before, and we know how it ends: with individuals winning, because they were better equipped. And we know the big companies will win too, because they are comprised of individuals. Both will end up doing what only they can do best.

This is why Big Data needs the modern equivalent of the PC, the Internet and the mobile phone: an invention that mothers necessity.

I think that invention is the personal cloud. All we — today’s developers — need to do now is build a good and compelling personal cloud. Or a choice of them. Once that happens, and people start using them, the big companies (and government agencies) of the world will cave in and release personal data that they clutch like a treasure, thinking that only Big Solutions to their Big Data problems, from Big Vendors, will do the job. They caved in on computing when they embraced PCs, on networking when they embraced the Internet, and on mobility when they embraced smartphones and tablets.

I could be wrong, but I’ve made the same prediction three times already. This is the fourth. To me, the only question that matters is: How?

Some pretty cool startups and open source dev groups will vet their answers at IIW. See ya there.

8 comments

  1. gregorylent’s avatar

    would be nice to extend that to government

  2. Dan Guy’s avatar

    Intriguing! If I could somehow collect all of the data from my personal life, it would indeed be “big”. And I could probably mine it for insights and patterns and get some value out of it.

    The promise of “Big Data”, though, I always thought, was in aggregating the many in order to find value. Not just my data but yours, at that of a hundred thousand others. How can that be personal? Even if it were anonymized, studies have suggest that it doesn’t take many anonymous points of data to track an identity down.

    Then again, big companies and the government don’t seem to be doing a very good job keeping my data secure, so perhaps the safest thing to do would be to release it all and count on the volume to dwarf anyone’s ability or desire to find an individual within it.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Dan.

    The issue is useful data, actually, not the size of it. What made PCs sell was the usefulness of speadsheets, word processors, desktop publishing and tens of thousands of other apps that did all kinds of things that mainframes could not, even though mainframes were big and PCs were small.

    Right now there is lots of data that is useful to me that I wish any of us could easily collect from our Withings scales, our Nike and Fitbit monitors, our Zeo sleep monitors, our fitness machines, our travel apps and services, and every other source of useful data that’s currently silo’d inside various companies’ separate systems.

    All those companies are being sold “big data” solutions to treat us in aggregate, or to get collective intelligence out of many of us.

    My thesis here is that we can do more with “our” data currently in the exclusive possession of those companies than they can.

Comments are now closed.