Column: Life in the era of ‘big data’


The sweeping changes of the past two decades show the power of data to improve our lives. Thanks to game-changing innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and robotics, our knowledge about our needs and what makes us tick will soon be more exact and expansive than ever. Data provides us with a better picture of who we are, how we feel and what we like.

Throughout the coming decade, data will be key to developing better solutions to our biggest problems. Tech companies large and small recognize this and are finding creative and innovative ways to collect data that can inform important decisions.

Health Care: Wearable technology collects important data about our health and wellness, and can help doctors make the best possible decisions and diagnoses for patients, whether in person or remotely. In some cases, data or wearables may eliminate the need to visit a doctor. And according to Consumer Technology Association (CTA) research, 85 percent of consumers who use wearables, such as Fitbits that track your steps and monitor your heart rate, say the data these devices collect help them achieve their fitness goals.

In addition to its day-to-day usefulness, these kinds of advanced technologies also help treat serious medical conditions. Sharp HealthCare uses AI to scan and analyze medical records, allowing doctors to predict whether or not patients are in danger of a rapid health decline. And Aira, a San Diego-based company, made smart glasses with a camera that feeds video to a remote agent, narrating the surrounding area and relaying audio information to people with visual impairments.

The Roadway to Smart Cities: Data goes far beyond solving the challenges individual patients face. Data can help transform communities, cities and even the country as a whole.

For example, imagine a smart city that – through data – can function more efficiently with less traffic, more green space and reduced pollution. Or imagine being a young innovator with a wild idea for a startup. Five years ago, you’d probably relocate to Silicon Valley or New York to make the connections you needed to succeed. Now, thanks to the power of 5G and the Internet of Things, you can set up shop in almost any U.S. city – Detroit, Raleigh, Wichita, wherever – and be able to hire the best talent, no matter where they live.

The Future of Work: Big data can change not only where we work, but also how efficiently and how well we work. AI allows us to streamline all kinds of elements of our jobs – whether it’s searching hundreds of pages of legal documents, getting rid of weeds with greater precision or using visualization technology to monitor brain tumors. We’ll start to see AI where we shop, study and spend leisure time – which in turn will open up thousands of new jobs to develop, run and maintain this technology.

The Future of Travel: In addition to making our work easier, AI will revolutionize how we travel. With AI-enabled self-driving cars, data will let our cars do the navigating and driving for us, opening up hundreds of hours of productivity and making our roads safer. Instead of having to keep an eye on your tank and find a spot to refuel or recharge, your car can do it all for you. Instead of having to re-route when you run into traffic, your car will pick the quickest route without your even having to ask. Instead of having to scrape snow off your car and adjust the temperature, your car can get itself ready for the day.

This vision of a better, brighter, data-driven future is part of what brings us together at CES® 2018 – the world’s largest tech event. From internationally-recognized companies to small, innovative startups, businesses from across the country and the world come here to demonstrate all the exciting ways data and technology can be used to change our lives for the better. No one knows precisely what the future will bring. But judging from the kind of products we’re seeing at CES and the kind of progress we’ve seen over the past 20 years, we know innovation will bring us a world beyond our imagination.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association.

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