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Big Data gets a human face

Zafar Anjum | Sept. 14, 2012
Rick Smolan, creator of the groundbreaking ‘Day in the Life’ Series, launches a multi-platform, globally crowdsourced project

Can you give a human face to Big Data? If yes, how?

To explore this quest, Rick Smolan, one the most interesting filmmakers of our time and the creator of the 'Day in the Life' series, has initiated a globally crowdsourced initiative, 'The Human Face of Big Data'.

EMC has made a primary sponsorship to the project, according to a statement by the IT services company. Supporting sponsorship comes from Cisco, VMware, Tableau and Originate.

"The project is based on the premise that the real-time visualisation of data collected by satellites, and by billions of sensors, RFID tags, and GPS-enabled cameras and smartphones around the world is enabling humanity to sense, measure, understand and affect aspects of our existence in ways our ancestors could never have imagined in their wildest dreams," said the IT company in a statement.

Some of the stories will be told through unique strategies. For example, elephant seals equipped with antennas on their heads to map the oceans; satellites being used to target mosquitoes; an SMS system preventing the sale of counterfeit medicines in Ghana; smartphones that can predict you're going to get depressed; credit cards that know two years before you do that you're headed towards divorce; and pills that transmit information directly from your body to your physician, among others.

The project kicks off on 25 September with an eight-day "Measure Our World" event inviting people around the world to share and compare their lives in real time through an innovative smartphone app.

According to EMC, the project also includes "Mission Control" events in New York, Singapore and London; "Data Detectives," a global student initiative being conducted in conjunction with the TED organisation; a stunning large-format book featuring more than 200 photographs, essays from noted writers and infographics; an iPad app; and a documentary.

"My goal with this project is to spark a global conversation about Big Data, about its potential if used wisely and the danger if we aren't very careful," said Rick Smolan. "Big Data represents an extraordinary knowledge revolution that's sweeping, almost invisibly, through business, academia, government, healthcare and everyday life. And, like all new tools, it carries the potential for unintended consequences. But if we are careful and wise, in the not too distant future, this new set of technologies may have an impact on humanity as great as those of language and art."

"Big Data began in computer labs with a handful of elite scientists," said Jeremy Burton, executive vice president, Product Operations and Marketing, EMC "Soon, everyone from grade school students to grandmothers, and all points in between, will awake to the trans-formational impact that Big Data will have on the way we all live, govern, work and play. The Human Face of Big Data is the most engaging and captivating attempt we've ever seen to truly tap into, and put a human face on, the societal impact of Big Data. I'm confident that this project will have a lasting and meaningful impact."

The Human Face of Big Data documentary will be released in 2013. The project is editorially independent and is produced by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt, co-founders of Against All Odds Productions.


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