DATA storage supplier EMC has embarked on a drive to get people around the world to generate and share information through a project called the Human Face of Big Data.
The aim is to tap into, and put a human face on, the societal impact of "big data" — a new technology that aims to collect huge amounts data generated daily by consumers.
Examples include Facebook status updates, tweets on Twitter, digital photos and video, closed-circuit camera feeds, and credit-card transactions.
The Human Face of Big Data is a globally "crowdsourced" media project focusing on humanity’s new ability to collect, analyse, triangulate and visualise vast amounts of data in real time, EMC says.
EMC is the key sponsor of the project and is providing the technology platform. The project is an initiative of Against All Odds Productions, the company founded by photographer Rick Smolan and his partner, Jennifer Erwitt.
The project kicked off on September 27 with the launch of a smartphone application running on Apple’s handsets and also on Google’s Android powered devices. Within days — by Monday, October 1 — about 106,000 volunteers had signed up to answer questions about themselves and their daily lives and activities.
They can also contribute the data the phone collects everyday, such as the distance they travelled using digital maps.
Once they have contributed the information and completed their answers, volunteers can search for their "data doppelganger" — individuals similar to them based on the answers provided.
EMC hopes to draw some interesting and useful conclusions about how we live and work. Dave Menninger, the head of business development and strategy at EMC Greenplum, says "big data" is not about the size of the project but the insight people can get from the data being created and packaged.
"The world is at the start of something that will change society for the better. Big data has the power to transform the world. It is changing the way systems work," he says.
Mr Menninger expects about 1-million downloads by next month. The information will be packaged and could be donated to a research institute.
"Big data is kind of like watching the planet developing a central nervous system – people carrying smartphones are becoming the central nervous system for the planet, collecting information," he says.
Another part of the project involves 100 photojournalists sent to take photos and gather stories on the effect of data on people’s lives across the globe. This information will be turned into a book that will be published next month and be given to 10,000 of the most influential people around the world.
Another leg, which will also be launched next month, will see students around the world in grades 6-12 and their teachers engage in data collecting activities to measure, analyse and map their worlds, EMC says.
"The activities will connect thousands of students around the world and allow them to compare their opinions, thoughts, concerns and beliefs through exciting data visualisations and graphics," it says.
A Human Face of Big Data documentary will also be released next year.
• Mochiko was a guest of EMC in London
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