On New Year’s Eve, All Tech Considered, had a segment looking ahead to interesting technology in the coming year. One of the themes was Big Data, but I particularly liked the way they sold it: “Big Data For Little People.” The basic idea being that much of big data is owned by big companies, which crunch the data for their own purposes. But the NPR folks are seeing a trend for applications that crunch big data and bring the results to your smartphone or other app.
This is nothing new, of course, but I welcome more of it. This year I started using Waze to help me commute. Waze runs on my smartphone and analyzes the locations and velocities of other Waze users in order to predict which route will get me to my destination quickest. If an accident happens down the road, Waze redirects me around it. Despite a predilection for directing me to cross Wilshire Blvd (10 lanes of traffic) without the assistance of a stop light or stop sign, and despite the fact that every so often I realize that I’m being routed so as to collect velocity data on an as-yet-untested road, Waze does lots of smart things and definitely saves time, particularly on highways.
Of course, credit card companies have been providing a service like this for years, and having been a victim of identity theft twice this year (most recently on New Year’s Eve), I’ve grown to appreciate how rapidly these companies detect unusual patterns in my card usage. Other apps (I use AllClear ID) monitor your other financial transactions as well, and alert you to potential fraud. I also recall an app that compares your bank statements to others' and pinpoints places where you might save money. (Was it called PiggyBank?)
The reporters on NPR (Steve Henn and Laura Sydell) predict ‘smart wallets’ that will advise you on the wisdom of purchases you are making or considering, as well as traffic-prediction apps.
What big data for little people apps would you like to see?