Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Product idea: Tell me what I should know

There are enormous amount of data available on the internet.  Each day the body of knowledge stored on the net increases.  Given a specific question, chances are there is some data to help you answer the question.  As velocity of data accumulation increases, thanks to all the sensors that we carry in our mobile device and communication through connected devices, we no longer have insufficient data problem.  The problem of the future will be data discovery problem.

Given all the enormity of ever growing data set, we need an efficient way to surface the data when we need them.  It's almost like thinking about how data can be presented to us when we need them.  Think about how our lives will be different if our device understands where we are and what we are doing, and serves us the relevant data that we might need.

Let me give you an example.

I had to drive from Berkeley to Dublin which I don't normally do.  When I got on the car, I was not sure when it would be a good time to drive back home not knowing the traffic condition.  If I wanted to look up the best time to be on the road, I would have to open one of traffic apps, select current location as Berkeley, select the destination as Dublin, look for the shortest commute time and find out when it would make the best sense for me to get on the road.

All the data was available.  I just had to do lot of data entry to get the answer I needed (in addition to knowing which app to use to get the answer).

What if I pulled out my smartwatch (Pebble or upcoming Apple smartwatch would do) and smartwatch serendipitously displayed the information that I might be interested, namely when it would be the best time to leave?

What about showing the best menu item when you sit down to order at a new restaurant?  What about showing me the lowest gas price station when I'm running low on gas?

These are not difficult questions to answer.  Given my whereabout, location, and combining with the data available from the nearby sources, such as restaurant menu review, gas price in the nearby gas stations, and live traffic information, we can answer these questions without too much difficulty.  But we are having to do manual data entry to retrieve the information.  It's slow and laber-intensive, hence it's difficult to discover.

With smartwatch technology coming soon and wearable internet-connected devices, hardware barrier is about to come down.  What we need is easier way to surface the useful information when and where we need it.

There are non technical barriers as well, such as privacy and ensuring the credibility of data sources.  No one wants to be tracked and monitored 24/7.  Being able to manage their own data in secure and private way would be a big challenge that someone needs to solve.  That in it of itself is a big problem for many people to tackle.

But I see this happening soon.  Sooner than when many of you think.

People have to get over the fear of being tracked.
That is a big enough problem for several startups.

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