Challenges in BIg Data – bottlenecks after bottleneck after bottleneck. Collaboration, Technology, and Human Behavior

Data is powerful. The entire morning, I have been learning that data drives changes, it drives policies and addresses corporate policies. But data can also be problems. There are various challenges that big data can bring about. Data quantity and quality is highly distributed data source. Just think of one data point. How much water is a specific building using? Well the city has a meter, the company has a set fee, and the individual measures the water out of the faucet. Will these three numbers be the same? Well no. These data are all different and there are several bottlenecks in big data. Corporation seems like a key perspective.
How do two data source who uses different methods of data collection with different framework be compared? Is there some way to say that your data is better than mine or that mine data is more precise than yours? The grid system, like the smart energy grid. Many utilities and municipals are slowly developing their own smart grid. But is it really smart to develop these ideas separately? Would it cause a slow down if everyone needs to get together into a building to come up with the baseline?

Investment also varies based on location. Utilities with a large budget can dive more into data collection while others with the bare minimum need all the available resource just to run the system. So will the people who live in Boston get the same treatment as those who live in Orlando? Do you know that those in Boston pay more for water compared to those in Orlando? What if I say that Florida has been in a water battle for the past decade while water is plenty in Boston? Does the pay still make sense? DO you think that the two utilities use the same framework of data collection?
Technology is another bottleneck. Technology in data currently store and collect data real-time. For example many people say that smart-grids can allow for tracking of when a person use power. For example you used the computer for 3 hours yesterday and it uses X amount of energy. Well this is not true. There is a data in terms of value but that value is useless unless analysis occurs and currently technology in analysis is not real-time. Most companies still hire someone to just surf the social media. There is currently no database that is connected to twitter. Technology can get to the point where a sensor in a classroom can spit out graphs and tables for the users on comparing. Data like, you are using 200kwatt more than the classroom across the hallway and this is because you have two extra lightbulbs and three laptops. It can also tell you that replacing the lightbulbs with X, Y, or Z can give you these savings and replacing the laptops is useless because the saving is not enough.
Finally, the bottleneck of human behavior must be addressed. Even if we have all the collaborations and all the technologies, how do we address human behavior? For example, I will turn off the basement light because I can save some money on my electricity bill. But what if data shows that I only save 2 dollars a month? Would I care? Would you care? Thus this bottleneck needs education. Take another example, people want to know where their food come from, if it is fresh and if it is healthy, if it is organic or not. But what if there are data to show that traditional farming is way more efficient, water efficient, nutrient fulfillment, and more bang for the buck compare to organic farming? But traditional farming uses some form of pesticide that does not harm us when we eat it but may harm the land and soil?
So sticking with Food. Do you think if everyone goes organic or vegetarian, would we be able to feed everyone in the world? UN’s MDG addresses that there is a desire to feed everyone in the world. Now, if there is a data that shows that vegetable diet is better for the body and at the same time a data shows that if everyone in the US turns to a vegetable diet, we would need land the size of 10 United States to feed everyone. Would you recommend that UN’s MDG address that everyone should be vegetarian? How do you then say that these people can be vegetarian while everyone else need to eat other sources? Would you eat just chicken if we say that chickens are better for the environment compare to cows and pigs?
So the three bottlenecks of data in tier systems is then collaboration, technology, and human behavior. Can we address these barriers? Who can? Anyone?

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About t5huang

Masters in Environmental Science at UPenn Candidate
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