NPR, by Yuki Noguchi, Nov 29
What do Facebook, Groupon and biotech firm Human Genome Sciences have in common? They all rely on massive amounts of data to design their products. Terabytes and even zettabytes of information about consumers or about genetic sequences can be harnessed and crunched.
The practice is called big data, and as the term suggests, it is huge in both scope and power. Analyzing big data enables anything from predicting prices to catching criminals, and has the potential to impact many industries.
One way to understand how big data works is to think about your daily life. You write an email, call your boss, pass a security camera, maybe buy a plane ticket online. Taken alone, this is disjointed, boring information. To Elizabeth Charnock, it makes up your digital character.
"Digital character is this idea that almost everybody these days leaves behind a giant digital breadcrumb trail," she says.
Charnock founded Cataphora, a company that can process huge amounts of this sort of data about employees to determine patterns. She says those patterns can predict everything from a person's mood to their skill as a manager to a person's inclination to commit fraud.
Take rogue trader Jerome Kerviel, who cost his French bank billions of dollars in losses.
"His cellphone bill was literally an order of magnitude larger than any of his coworkers - why?" Charnock asks. "Well, because he wanted to put less things in writing. He almost never took vacation, even though French people love to take vacation."
Charnock says Kerviel also circumvented usual trading and communication protocols.
Read more, including interview with Oren Etzioni and a VC from Greylock Partners.