Data analytics is an ominous word that implies complex algorithms and modeling in order to make evidence-based decisions. It sounds like a mixture of high-order mathematics and statistical reasoning that escapes the layman’s repertoire. It’s complicated! However, most average people rely on support from data that is collected from them every day. How much does data impact your daily life? The more difficult question would be, when does it not?
How Much Does Data Impact Your Daily Life?
Let’s create a fictitious example of a male, middle-class, middle-aged suburbanite’s daily data encounters. It may be a bit overdeveloped, but it shines a light on how much we have come to depend on data. In this story, data is collected before waking up for the morning because this person is wearing a smartwatch. While he sleeps, it is monitoring his heart rate and sleep patterns and comparing it with data collected from larger populations. Once awake, this information is automatically transferred to a smartphone to tell the user how his or her sleep quality and heart rate compares to “healthy” individuals. Of course, since he is now awake, it is also counting his steps.
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The Internet of Things (IoT) begins its journey as soon as our stereotypical, fictional character wakes up. His thermostat has learned his preferred morning temperature by collecting data over time and adjusts accordingly. He asks his smart speaker what the weather is, not because he doesn’t have a window, but because he wants to know the exact temperature to determine what jacket he should wear. The sprinkler system outside collects data without prompting, and it begins to water the lawn because the forecast dictates that it is needed.
So much information is available at his fingertips or voice command. Maybe he checks Facebook, which has collected data and shows him advertisements and posts that it believes he would prefer. He tells Alexa to start his morning routine as he walks into the kitchen, and the lights turn on while Alexa tells him today’s headlines and plays his favorite music station. Data has made this fictional man’s journey very convenient, and he hasn’t even left the house.
Now, we could say that our fictional man drives a fully electric vehicle, but let’s be honest, most of us are still driving gas guzzlers. He does, however, start the car from his smartphone, so it is the perfect temperature when he gets into it. On his way to work, he has to cross a toll bridge, and the RFID unit on his car lets the local traffic agency collect its dues without any physical transaction occurring on either of their parts. Once at work, he uses a badge/key card to open the door, and his entrance into the building is documented in their security system.
For the rest of the day, data allows our fictional man to live two lives: one at work and one away from work. He receives reminders for birthdays that are happening today and those that are happening in the near future. He has fair warning that it’s time to get his oldest sister a gift before her party on Friday. He texts his babysitter, so he can take his wife out to dinner. Her phone number is programmed into his phone. Then, he uses his order history on DoorDash to make sure they are fed. He schedules a reservation for dinner and an Uber, so they can both enjoy a bottle of wine. All of this occurs during work, and he is still able to get his work finished without delay.
We Use Data All of the Time
Data is everywhere, and we use it constantly. Our example doesn’t even begin to delve into the world of health, where people can easily monitor their food intake and exercise. The point is, our fictional man has become reliant on the marriage of data and technology to achieve a very productive day.
Yes, data can be complicated and overwhelming, but it should not be discounted as frivolous or even unwanted. Instead, data gives us the ability to live our lives in a futuristic manner. It provides conveniences in the present that we would never have without complex mathematics and algorithms. To the data analyst or computer programmer, the importance of data is apparent. However, we all benefit from data in our daily lives whether we understand the details of it or not.