Every day, a small army of vegetable spotters equipped with mobile phones fans out through the markets of Mumbai and other Indian cities, snapping photos of onions and sundry food items.
Welcome to the era of advanced data correlation.
The spotters are part-time employees of California-based startup Premise, which uses data-intensive, on-the-ground surveys of key indicators to pick up inflationary trends, often uncovering them long before government sources.
"Big data is opening up a world in which millions of disparate data points can be mapped and cross-correlated"
Big data is opening up a world in which millions of disparate data points can be mapped and cross-correlated, illuminating economic patterns and providing business insights previously unavailable. As an example, data gathered in the subcontinent’s groceries and shops has been shown to accurately reflect fluctuations in the Indian rupee.
These kinds of correlations and insights are highly valuable to Premise’s customer base of banks, hedge funds, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, national policy makers, and non-governmental organisations.
Data provides opportunity
Premise isn’t the only player in the emerging space. Others such as Kensho, Skybox, Relate IQ, and DataHug are joining the fray. As momentum builds, it’s becoming clear that correlative data gathering can do remarkable things – enabling banks to better serve corporate customers, hedge funds to make more nimble investments, sales professionals to generate better leads, and packaged food giants like Procter & Gamble to better understand their economics.
Silicon Valley venture capital firms have already spotted the trend and are seeing an opportunity for big returns in a lucrative emerging space.
California-based Skybox (acquired by Google in 2014) is a data analytics startup that uses high resolution satellite imagery to provide access to information about everything from activity in Walmart car parks to ship movements in ports. Hard at work building a global network of small, nimble, and inexpensive ‘microsatellites’, Skybox uses metadata extracted from overhead imaging to enable clients to monitor relevant aspects of their business.
"Big data technology is becoming accessible to non-technical staff by enabling users to interact with complex data engines in plain English"
Big data technology is also becoming accessible to non-technical staff by enabling users to interact with complex data engines in plain English. Massachusetts-based Kensho has developed a platform, ‘Warren’, that can answer questions such as, “What happens to the share prices of energy companies when oil trades above USD100 a barrel and political unrest has recently occurred in the Middle East?”. Warren then generates proprietary data sets that give clients unique insights into the subject at hand.
Delivering competitive edge
Some startups are taking aim specifically at customer relationship management. California-based Relate IQ ties together multiple data sources and gleans insights from sales employees’ interactions, acting as an intelligent guide to managing relationships.
A similar startup, Datahug, based in Dublin, Ireland, uses data to create a “dynamic business database”, building a map that shows every relationship in a company’s ecosystem and its connection to the outside world. The system can turn a ‘cold’ contact into a potentially ’warm’ one, hence the “hug” in Datahug.
"By coming up with unusual and innovative combinations, a new wave of firms are pushing the boundaries of what can be discovered"
As the amount of data grows, the potential for better predictive analytics is also rising. Advanced data correlation has massive potential for competitive differentiation. By coming up with unusual and innovative combinations, a new wave of firms are pushing the boundaries of what can be discovered. This trend will likely gain momentum as its value becomes more widely known and understood.