Better Living through (Data) Chemistry

A number of years ago, I was quite sick, but like so many people, still felt compelled to go in to the office i. I did the only logical thing—went to the doctor and got some pills to help me feel good enough to work. As I popped my pills during an afternoon meeting, a colleague looked at me and said “better living through chemistry, right?” And it’s true. 80 years ago, when DuPont introduced its “better living” slogan ii, products created in a lab and the companies that made them were derided. In 2015, most people don’t think twice about using any of the thousands of products that the innovation and chemistry of DuPont (and others) have brought us iii. We can’t imagine our lives without these marvels—and most tellingly, they have ceased to be marvels and are just part of our lives.

 

In 80 years, data, and its products, will play a similarly omnipresent role in people’s lives, and the marvels it creates will simply be basic parts of our lives. Today, people are too often worried (terrified may be a better word) about the role of data. My own mum worries when I talk with her about my work with big data and predictive analytics. She once told me “I saw Minority Report, and I don’t want the government or companies knowing all that about me.” There is a fear of the unknown and a significant misunderstanding of what the role of data is—but as with any new technology, as people come to rely on and use it, it becomes an indispensable part of our lives.

 

Power of Analytics in Your Life

 

When I was a senior in high school, I went on a road trip with some friends to visit a college. To guarantee we didn’t get lost, my parents let me borrow their GPS. We set our first destination in the unit and the strangely seductive robotic voice told us we would “arrive at our destination in 3 hours, 35 minutes” iv and off we went. A friend drove, and we took pride in shaving time off the estimate—now it estimated it would take only 3:20, now 3:10, and finally, we arrived under 3 hours. We spent most of the rest of the trip trying to race the GPS.

 

I compare that now to a more recent road trip. My wife and I set out from our home in Myrtle Beach, SC for Philadelphia, PA—573 miles. Remembering our high school and college road trips, we scoffed at Google Maps’ 11-hour estimate. With her NASCAR-esque driving, I was confident my wife could do it closer to 9, maybe 9 ½ including a couple quick stops. Google was right. How did we come so far?

 

The answer lies in Google’s use of data. Each smartphone user with Google Maps and location services enabled, sends small bits of data to Google, which is aggregated and analyzed. This is then combined with historical data, and can be used to accurately predict drive times v. Now I feel good if I can beat an arrival estimate by a minute or two.

 

The companies that will either continue to lead or become leaders in their industry are those who use or will use data effectively. Just like we have better living through chemistry, in the next twenty years, we will certainly have better living through data chemistry. Without an effective data and analytics strategy, your company will be like the GPS my parents loaned me years ago: outdated and bordering on obsolete.

 

If you need help sorting through your data complexities, give us a call. Whether it’s architecting an overall strategy, digging into your data for insights, designing analytics dashboards, or any number of other data related problems, give us a call. Our team are experts in helping companies of all sizes navigate the data dilemma maze. Archetype SC…we do complicated.


 

i “Survey Finds Being Sick Doesn’t Keep Hard-Working Americans Out of the Workplace -.” NSF. NSF, 19 Feb. 2014. Web. 03 Aug. 2015.

ii Shanken, A. M. “Better Living: Toward a Cultural History of a Business Slogan.” Enterprise and Society 7.3 (2006): 485-519. Web.

iii Even if one actively tries to avoid using their products, the abundance in all aspects of our lives makes it nearly impossible.

iv This is exact time is used for illustration; I remember the time shown was over three hours, and less than four, but cannot place the exact minutes

v “The Bright Side of Sitting in Traffic: Crowdsourcing Road Congestion Data.” Official Google Blog. Google, 25 Aug. 2009. Web. 03 Aug. 2015.

 

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