May 23, 2013

Data Diary

By Matt Clarke, Chief Technical Officer,

We asked Matt Clarke, Chief Technical Officer at marketing and technology consultancy Amaze, to keep a record of all his data interactions over the course of a single day. Here’s the story behind his daily big data trail

Monday 8 April 2013:

I’m heading to Chicago today for a business trip. I have a long flight ahead of me so I’ve prepared several downloads from BBC iPlayer onto my iPad. I’ve also downloaded several audio books onto my iPhone to listen to on the plane whilst working, and for my training runs between meetings up the Lake Michigan coastline.

The Data Day

I wake early and book a taxi to take me to the airport via my iPhone application. The app knows my home address, it has my credit card details saved and can send a clean, wifi-enabled cab within minutes of ordering. Rather than the driver ringing the doorbell and waking the kids up, an SMS arrives to tell me that the driver is waiting outside. I sneak out of the house and jump into the cab.

As usual I’m bored straight away so I check Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, which is something I regularly do first thing every morning. I have received a couple of requests from LinkedIn but post nothing myself. We come into traffic on the north circular and I’m worried about flight times as I always leave it to the last minute. I look at Apple maps to check traffic conditions. Luckily there are no major problems so I should get to the airport on time.

Next I decide to check in for my flight. I downloaded my favourite airline app some months ago which means my boarding card is already waiting and my loyalty card is input so I have access to the lounge and have not missed the valuable points I collect from each flight. It shows me some hotel options with good discounts and at the usual standard of quality which my company affords me, so I select one and book it.

My flight is shown as departing on time but I’m flying out of T5 at Heathrow, famous for its three satellite terminals and I want to know which gate I’m leaving from to give myself enough time. The airline app doesn’t give me the gate details but TripIt does. It’s a neat little app that stores all my travel plans, from flights, hotels and car hire, and keeps track of everything from delays to reward points, constantly alerting me about my travel plans. It also keeps my family in the loop about my whereabouts and allows my colleagues to book the same flights and hotel as me if we’re travelling together.

I arrive at the airport and in less than 40 minutes after leaving my house, big data has entered my world, harvested valuable information and provided me with equally rewarding data.

Harvest And Reward

The entertainment downloads I made last night have all been logged and tracked against my profile and they allow me to be targeted with more personalised content in the future. Equally, they know where I’ve downloaded the content from and to, so they know which devices I prefer These are then logged as interest types on my profile for future push personalisation. For the organisations, logging this information in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms enables them to source further content to reach my demographic.

For organisations to do this effectively they need to harvest my data through clever apps and utilities, such as reward programmes. They then need to join the dots and build my profile around all of the interactive touch-points I have with that organisation. Algorithms are then used to extract and understand the data meaning. Finally, all this needs to be applied back to the user through apps and websites.

This enables the user to feel rewarded and ultimately, helps ensure that the organisation gets more custom from that individual. As consumers get more tech savvy, they enjoy utility, such as not worrying about collecting boarding passes, which ensure that the organisations they use the most know they are valued customers and will be rewarded.

Into The Cloud

There’s no form of big data in the queue through the security lane. I hope the new security scanners aren’t sending images to the cloud, but something in me suspects that they are.

I often wonder about data privacy and who gets access to what. I run to the lounge, fly through the reception with my app (it is great that there is no need for a boarding card and loyalty card to get in). I grab a coffee just before my TripIt app makes the airport announcement noise – big data has pushed a live feed of departure and boarding announcements to my phone. I take one look and head to the appropriate gate. Jumping on the flight, I get settled and take off for the real clouds. I know for the time being that I’m disconnected, but this will become limited as most airlines are now investing in wifi on planes.

Seven and a half hours later I land at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Data from the immigration queue, fingerprints, photos and passport details goes straight to the US government’s private cloud. Goodness only knows what happens with that data!

Virtual Data – Real Utility

Once I’ve made my way through security and collected my luggage, it is time to make a decision on how to get to the hotel. I have quite a few meetings throughout the week in various locations. Is it cheaper to use public transport all week, rely on cabs or hire a car? I opt for the car hire. Out comes the iPhone again and I fire up one of my favourite apps provided by Zipcar. I’m already a member of the car club so they have my driving license details and credit card details saved. I type in my location and see that there is a car free for three days and that it’s located in a nearby short-stay car park.

I head to the car and using my iPhone app, I click the ‘car unlock’ button. It sends a message to the cloud, checks my details then sends a message back to the car’s little black box, unlocking the car as if I had pressed the key fob. I hop in and drive to the hotel; the black box keeps a record of my mileage and charges my credit card accordingly. All the while, big data is recording mine and the car’s whereabouts. Now that’s real utility; the ability to hop in a car parked at the bottom of your street and pay as you go without having forms to fill in.

Dropping my bags off at the hotel, I drive to an office complex to get some work done. Each user pays a subscription to use the space (including a hot desk and meeting rooms) and uses their own technology to conduct their day-to-day business. The cloud and big data have a big presence here; they are being used to network, share ideas, innovate, collaborate and work on projects in a more flexible manner. This use of big data is not only about companies harvesting data, it is about using big data and the cloud in new ways to create a virtual, more globalised, connected world.

Easy Access

With most of today’s examples, the biggest benefit of big data is to make my life easier. We still have to be vigilant about privacy and companies must continue to only use data to provide an enhanced service, giving consumers something back rather than selfishly marketing at them. All in all, it is about making our worlds much easier.

So, where next for big data? For me it is clear: on an average day I need to see the dots being joined around my touch-points with a particular brand. Whether it is an airline, car hire service or booking a hotel, I don’t want to keep retyping. I want convenience, quick access, intelligence and utility. Organisations that get this formula right and continue to innovate their service culture using big data will benefit in the long-term.

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By Matt Clarke, Chief Technical Officer,