How Big Data Changes Everything


Data and technology have always fueled how we design and make things.

by Phil Bernstein

A stone strapped to wood eventually became a metal hammer. The step pyramid developed into the true pyramid. The drafting table gave way to the computer screen.

All these innovations share a common source: human insights and creativity. And all subsequent improvements came from that same place. Collect information, learn, design, build or manufacture, operate, repeat.

Of course, designing and making originates from what people want, imagine, or desire. Or simply what needs to improve. Humankind’s collective knowledge—learning lessons from mistakes, gathering input, innovating, educating, documenting—has driven and influenced every great accomplishment, whether an awe-inspiring building, a life-changing product, or a world-defining story.

For the most part, there is still a static result in the end though. Something is constructed, composed, or manufactured—and then it’s done. Improvement only comes in the next version.


But now, design is in a data and technology shift. Big Data is an absolutely unrivaled accumulation of human insights and so much more—all thanks to the sheer volume, variety, and velocity of collection. And, like it or not, Big Data completely rules the world now. The collective insights and data for designing and creating are not just jumping from our brains the way it’s always been. Now it’s the entire world and all of our “things,” from smartphones to traffic sensors on roads to Fitbits.

Can Big Data really be harnessed for better design and making things? And, on top of it all, will this huge amount of data enable a product or building to improve and update itself without designers starting from scratch? The short answer: Yes. It’s coming in the Era of Connection and the future of design. Here’s how.

Collecting Data Is Easy. Making Sense of It Is Another Story. If you think Big Data is, well, big now, then just wait. So much more is coming from sources like the Internet of Things and the growing network of connected sensors. Those sensors are for a myriad of uses, such as temperature, lighting, and movement, just to name a few. They have become incredibly inexpensive, and storing the resulting data in the cloud is also cheap—so Big Data becomes massively accessible, too.

Even so, our technology today is barely keeping pace with all the data that is being stored. Finding an insight—something really useful—amongst all the data points is akin to searching a beach with a metal detector.

Read the full article here


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