Published: 08 April 2015

Most people in marketing (if not all) have heard the massive fuss about big data. The crux being how do we make use of this enormous amount of data we hold on people and make informed decisions about them?

As I’ve said in a previous article “Quantum Computer” part of the solution is simply more processing power. But the other question is once you are able to start making these informed decisions at what point does it start becoming a privacy problem.

Take this as an example, say you have a bin which has a camera mounted on it. The camera tracks the items dropping into it. Using this data it figures out what the items falling in are, perhaps even an image of the person who put it in. When you are next in a super market the super markets system sends you an SMS saying “you threw out these items don’t forget to order more”. Useful? Creepy?

What about this, you have just purchased a robotic hoover. You’re really excited you never have to hoover your house again! To start with your pets keep jumping on top of it riding around, but eventually everything settles down and karma is restored.

The hoover is fitted with an automatic connection to the internet which tells its central service centre if it needs repair or replacement. The terms and conditions document you signed when allowing this access also allows marketing data to be collected. If you even read the T&C (show me one person who does) you might go it’s a hoover what info can it possibly collect!

Let’s say it performs analysis on the particles it collects, this means it automatically determines what type of pets you have. Depending on the hairs and there length/density it’s pretty easy to figure out how many pets you have and there sizes.

Why bother? Well how about the super stores targeting pet food and other pet accessories. The most recent Crufts shows how massive an industry this is, with a dog kennel with tread mill and flat screen TV for your beloved pet. What about analysing human hair to determine if you dye your hair? Or you have quite brittle hair and suggests hair care products accordingly.

If the particle analysis seems too farfetched most of these systems contain radar and it’s not very difficult to get a cross section of a pet and figuring out what it is. Or audio analysis to detect barking or mewing. You could also deck it out with a camera and use that to figure out how many people are in the room at a time.

Useful? Creepy? It depends on the individual. That’s a few examples that I can see becoming reality very soon (if they don’t already exist!).

Richard Brisley

Lead Server-Side Developer


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