The weekend review: big data and business, mobile ads, and social workplaces

Unsurprisingly, big data was on everyone’s mind this week, as we kicked off our conference season with Structure:Data in New York City. The two-day show had plenty of highlights — our colleagues over at GigaOM have complete coverage here. But one of the most buzzworthy talks of the day was from Ira “Gus” Hunt, the CTO of the CIA, which included the eerily provocative factoid that we can all allegedly be identified by our gaits, as measured by 3 axes recorded by our smartphone (or Fitbits). While you mull that over, catch up on the three most popular pieces of research content on Pro:
In “Social is the new production line, not the new watercooler,” Stowe Boyd dispels some misconceptions around the use of social tools in the workplace. Rather than serve as an outlet for trivial banter, Boyd looks to none other than IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, who argues that “social networks will supplant the business-process model.” Boyd takes it a layer deeper, comparing and contrasting company structures that are more networked (with looser social affiliations) versus those that are more process-oriented (with subsequently tighter social affiliations).
Next, big data, it seems, is everywhere: We’re now producing exabytes of data per day. But regardless of what industry you’re in, this sea of (largely) unstructured data needs to be curated, cleaned, and queried before it can be strategically used for data-driven decision making. In “How to use big data to make better business decisions,” Paul Miller provides a primer on big data in the business context, including an overview of analytics, performance measurements, and structured versus unstructured data. Machine learning isn’t perfect (yet), and Miller emphasizes the importance of learning to ask the right questions and how to use the smartest queries when it comes to handling your big data intelligently and strategically.
Last, after years of disappointing numbers and overhyped, false starts, Colin Gibbs thinks that mobile ads will finally deliver in 2013. In “Why mobile advertising should finally soar in the next year. No, really!” Gibbs contends that the rise of tablets (and phablets), the wider implementation of LTE networks and Wi-Fi, and the increased traction for technologies such as NFC and augmented reality will all converge to make mobile ads a viable, successful channel. However, it still remains to be seen if advertisers can truly leverage these factors to create and implement compelling and innovative campaigns to attract consumer attention, and Gibbs cites a few promising examples.
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