Big Data is made up of lots of little data: numbers entered into cell phones, addresses entered into GPS devices, visits to websites, online purchases, ATM transactions, and any other activity that leaves a digital trail. Although the abuse of Big Data—surveillance, spying, hacking—has made headlines, it shouldn’t overshadow the abundant positive applications of Big Data. In Reality Mining, Nathan Eagle and Kate Greene cut through the hype and the headlines to explore the positive potential of Big Data, showing the ways in which the analysis of Big Data (“Reality Mining”) can be used to improve human systems as varied as political polling and disease tracking, while considering user privacy.
Eagle, a recognized expert in the field, and Greene, an experienced technology journalist, describe Reality Mining at five different levels: the individual, the neighborhood and organization, the city, the nation, and the world. For each level, they first offer a nontechnical explanation of data collection methods and then describe applications and systems that have been or could be built. These include a mobile app that helps smokers quit smoking; a workplace “knowledge system”; the use of GPS, Wi-Fi, and mobile phone data to manage and predict traffic flows; and the analysis of social media to track the spread of disease. Eagle and Greene argue that Big Data, used respectfully and responsibly, can help people live better, healthier, and happier lives.
About the Authors
Nathan Eagle, one of the “50 people who will change the world” on the 2012 Wired Smart List, is the cofounder and CEO of Jana, a company that helps global brands reach customers in emerging markets via mobile airtime. He holds faculty positions at Harvard and Northeastern Universities
Kate Greene is a freelance science and technology journalist based in San Francisco whose work has appeared in The Economist, Discover, and U.S News & World Report, among other publications.
“We look at digital devices as things that are meant to serve us. In Reality Mining we are taken on a journey from individuals to countries, to illustrate the true transformative power that the collective use of these digital devices brings to humanity. A fascinating trip guided by researchers who have successfully bridged discovery with entrepreneurship!”
—Albert-László Barabási, Robert Gray Doge Professor of Network Science, Northeastern University; author of Linked
“A smart look at how Big Data transforms our lives, from the microcosm of the individual to the macrocosm of the planet. Eagle's pioneering research in data-mining human behavior is inspiring, while Greene's insights on what it all means make Reality Mining an indispensable book. And importantly, privacy issues are not an afterthought but are interlaced throughout—as it should be.”
—Kenneth Cukier, coauthor of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think