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EditorSpeak: Caution: Disruptive technologies ahead

Arup Dasgupta
Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Managing Editor
[email protected]

Technologies are called disruptive because they make us relook at what we are doing and force us to think of taking new approaches that we failed to consider, or considered and rejected on grounds of impracticality. Data, data acquisition, storage and analysis have changed their very nature because of such disruptive technologies. Data used to be something that was standardised in terms of formats and contents. The availability of cheap GPS mobiles brought in VGI. While national mapping organisations are still grappling with the issue of validating such data, entrepreneurs have gone ahead and made the data available to end users. As a wag once put it, data which is 50% in error is a 100% improvement over a situation where there is no data.

Another disruption has been caused by social media. While many dismissed social media as a teenage fad, they soon found that it was a great instrument to quickly mobilise activists. Politicians now use social media to drum up support; retail giants scan social media to track adverse reports on their products. In disaster situations, social media now has replaced the ham radio as the instrument of quick information collection and broadcasting. As the world goes digital, all of us leave a trail of location information which is potentially useful information for governments and businesses. How much are we spending, on what, when, which are our preferred stores, airlines, cab services are all tracked as we use our mobile phones, Internet devices and credit cards to communicate, purchase item, take photographs and so on.

It is frightening to know that the storage capacity for information generated started falling short as far back as 2007 and is only linearly scaling up while data explodes nearly exponentially. Distributed computing, data warehousing, grid and Cloud were technical solutions to handle this problem. Now comes a new way of looking at storage where the data is left unstructured and processed in runtime as data streams to cull out useful information which could then be warehoused. The challenge is analytics that can search for patterns and anomalies in patterns, for similarities between data streams. Welcome to the world of Big Data.

So how will the world adapt to this disruptive technology? How will this impact SDIs, standards, policy, regulations, costs? It is already impacting environmental planning, business processes and location services. The article on Geodesign also covers the use of such data to individualise habitat and make them eco-friendly and sustainable. May be gaming will begin to use real-life situations. Imagine racing your virtual car in actual F1 race! Or will it be as the title of a report on information overload suggests: Information Overload: We have met the enemy and he is us?