Ekim Tan, Diana Ibáñez López

From Data Mining to Data Meaning

A Philips Design introduction to Data

A recent publication by Phillips discusses the advent of 'Big Data' -
complex datasets requiring innovative analysis. The findings extracted from Big Data can have transformative effects on how we live and innovate...

"Data is the new natural resource."

Philips' succinct introduction to the research paper is an apt reminder not only of the power of data in the global economy, but also of its 'natural' source - daily acts recorded and interconnected into a vast resource to feed back into daily life by fueling developments in design, business, governance, sustainability, and beyond.

"Unlike most resources, data is not finite. Quite the opposite. It is growing exponentially."

Interpretation is key to the usefulness of these datasets, collected continuously by connected devices the world over. Big Data is a staggering new resource - in both size and potential - and although debates around it have concentrated on storing, processing and analyzing it. Once stored and interconnected it can be usefully analysed - This is known as Data Mining.

Philips looks into the ways of moving from Data Mining to 'Data Meaning' - finding the insights that can really yield innovation and progress from the immense bulk of both raw data and analysed information. ... "they will all be constantly evolving. Just as humans change and adapt, so the meaning of the data they produce shifts over time. To adapt in their turn, companies wishing to be part of the data revolution need to move from creating fire-and-forget products, and adopt a launch-and-learn approach to data-driven propositions."

The paper goes on to suggest that this step will require collaborative and multidisciplinary processes: "Through co-creating, they will find new pathways to the most compelling propositions, which will evolve organically under the guidance of the people that bring them to life, as well as the people that use them."

Visualization and Gamification: keys to extracting meaning

"Raw data, like crude oil, is unusable. It needs to be refined or analyzed to find meaning in the chaos. One way to do so is through data visualization. Human beings are programmed to understand visual information much better than words or numbers." Gamification "encourages experimentation guided with early feedback from the business and promotes learning by doing. These are all key principles in dealing with the complexities of innovating data-driven propositions.

Another innovative approach to finding 'Data Meaning' are 'Mashups'. Data mashups are web pages or applications that use and combine data from two or more sources to create new services - "they identify relationships between streams that were not previously apparent."

Philips Design are building on their expertise with smart applications to explore new potentials of Big Data. Their approach is driven by the idea that "innovating in this world needs to mirror the characteristics of the world itself. That is, by being co-creative, playful, and rapid", and takes two forms: Data-driven and User-driven explorations of data.

The Data-driven exploration, similar to the mashup concept, is partly done through Philips' Hackathon events, where anyone interested in finding new meaning and value in the field of data joins a research team for a couple of days - combining the expertise of programmers, designers, managers, and other interested professionals.

User-driven exploration relies on sensors in gadgets to develop datasets particular to the user which can then be used to provide customized solutions for them.

Philips' vision includes a global and economic scope, although it never loses sight of the 'popular' nature of data collection, and its subsequent use. "In the Transformation economy, the value that companies bring comes from being part of a public-private network or community whose aim is to improve people’s lives in a sustainable way, either on a global or local scale ... industries, governments, academia, and grass roots movements will have to collaborate to create local solutions that then contribute to the larger whole."

The full research paper, "Making Sense of the Chaos" can be read here