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Data Monetization, Internet of Things, and Data Science as a Service – Part 1

September 30, 2016 | Joe Barron

The idea of data monetization, albeit more popular and growing today, is not a new one. Broadly speaking, data monetization is deriving value from data; either direct revenue through its sale or realized benefits from its usage and manipulation. The internet of things (IoT) is generally described as the internetworking of physical devices, embedded with technology, that enable them to collect and exchange data. Again I submit this idea is not new; obviously the acronym, sensor technology and collection / distribution mechanisms are new and continue to evolve. Data Science as a Service (DSaaS) is a form of outsourcing that involves the delivery of information derived from analytics to clients for their use. Again, this concept is not new, but has been given an in-vogue acronym and to some, a “mystical” hype.

So why can I boldly state that these are old ideas newly branded?  How can I tangibly make an argument with justifiable proof?  What does it have to do with anything current day? Indulge me here for a bit. I will make this tangential!

M y background did not begin in the software consulting space, the world of business analytics, data monetization or data science; it began within the biomedical engineering space. We were building telemetry devices to measure a myriad of effects within the human body for Dental, Orthopedics and Neuroscience (as well as others). Many of the data collection and experimentation we performed revolved around non-contact diagnostics; in our case, the use of lasers. As my career grew and digital technology exploded, I transitioned my telemetry expertise to include software design for collection, manipulation, analyzation and visualization. Obviously these techniques of my early days pale in comparison to the new tools and devices we have at our disposal today, but nevertheless, we did what we could with what we had at the time. At the ripe old age of 25, now well versed in electronics, software and statistics, everything in my world culminated into medical research; specifically creating devices (including software), collecting data and producing publications (around the analytic findings) for the academic community. So you ask yourself “This is a boring story, what is the point?”

The telemetry devices we created back then “talked” together, exchanged data and delivered the data to a central location. Some were wired (RS-232, IEE-488, etc.) and some were wireless (using various radio frequency techniques); none were “internet” connected because it did not yet exist. The point being, we had the basis of IoT; devices communicating, exchanging data and data being collected at a focal point for analysis. What did we do with the data?  Well, we monetized it! How?

As an example of data monetization within the context of this framework, I will use the William Wrigley Junior Company, yes chewing gum. In 1990, William Wrigley Junior Company came to our group headed and mentored by an epidemiologist and physicist / mathematician. We had made a reputation for ourselves. I built electronics, software and did whatever they asked me to do J. Wrigley asked us to create devices that would unobtrusively collect plaque (that is the nasty stuff you use floss for) pH data from patients over time and be robust enough to introduce variables as the research evolved. Of course, we accepted the challenge. We were chosen as the first team of three, in the world - not just the US or Canada - to do this. So we built a series of telemetry devices that functioned, but were not ideal. Enter the military. They had experiments / research they wanted us to perform and through reciprocity, they allowed us to utilize classified military technology. Now I digress further. The military had armed guards posted outside our photonics lab and performed impromptu “lock down” inspections”. That was a blast - NOT!  The military gave us “embedded” technology. We used this technology to “communicate” between devices. The technology referenced is now declassified.

So what does all of this equate to? IoT (rudimentary) and data monetization. We created devices that communicated together, exchanged data and delivered it to a central point. We analyzed that data, in this case for Wrigley, and monetized it. How? We presented the unequivocal data (along with two other labs in the world) that chewing sugarless gum after eating reduces plaque pH, thus reducing an individual’s susceptibility to carries (tooth decay). It is documented on the internet. They continued to pay us for it over several years. Data monetization, right there folks!

So where does Data Science as a Service (DSaaS) fit in this story? Well, let us recap. We have the rudimentary beginnings of IoT and we have data monetization. Guess what? We also performed all of the analytical calculations, derivations and predictive analytics – as a third party. DSaaS as it exists today! We were obviously not the first, but had a commanding grasp. So what is the point in all of this and why the historical introduction? Enter data monetization, IoT, and DSaaS to the modern world. The Data Sciences Group within NRC has the background, focus, acumen, direction, experience and history for the “what if” in our future.   More to follow in a later post.

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