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Technology Is Only as Intelligent as Its Wearer

It seems lately that everyone is talking about increasing access to data, data and more data. In fact, no longer is there an issue of sourcing data, but instead a problem of what to look at, when and how to interpret it.

All well and good, you say—data is the lifeblood of intelligence and innovation! Well, not exactly. In order to convert data into knowledge, you need to process it. You need to connect the dots and turn information into meaning. Then you need to act on that meaning. As technology progresses, we are becoming better, not just at collecting data, but also at assimilating it. The challenge is that very few of us are good at or qualified to turn this assimilated data into decisions and strategy.

We see this in our personal life, in business and also in society. This article on the investment in “sci-fi tech” for the UK police is one such example. At first glance such equipment—including a range of wearable computers—seems like a great innovation designed to protect our forces and give them more live information for policing on the streets. But dig a little deeper and you will quickly find problems with utilization. The recent BlackBerry investment has returned much less than the expected ROI and I expect the wearable glasses and smart watch to come up against the same problem.

Compare this technology on a personal level with sports wearable tech. How many of you have running watches or devices that collate everything from heart rate to pace and even elevation but, at the end of the day, simply plug this into a social platform, turning the data into little more than a boast or at best a GPS track of your activity? How many of you read and assess the data in order to truly improve your performance?

Reflecting the same challenge back to policing, are we seriously saying it is productive for police to spend their time monitoring social feeds through a watch, rather than talking to individuals and using their eyes in order to know what is happening in their area? And if they were to do this, what would they be looking for? How would they respond? Would it not be better to have an intelligence team in headquarters dedicated to this?

In a business context, I recently had a conversation with a big data executive leading a company that acts as a “curator” for the wealth of data streaming into businesses today. They sort through the data, connect the dots and provide this back in a more usable and value-add form. This concept of curation is essential to turning the mass of data we continue to have at our fingers into knowledge, decision and actions. Even in business this is a relatively new concept that leaders are still getting to grips with.

Sadly it seems that many of the innovations in data technology will remain untapped and perhaps even counterproductive until the skills and systems for curating this new world of data are advanced and widely used. Personally I’d like to see more innovation in this field. Until then, I’m afraid, technology and data will only be as good as its wearer.