Sensor Data

Most of us don’t deal with sensors in our jobs. Or do we? So many devices are in use these days, with a wide variety of inputs that many of us might not realize that applications might be capturing some of this data, which is more akin to sensor data than manually entered data. I would suspect that the meta data might vastly exceed the amount of data entered in text boxes in many of our databases in the future. It might be location, time, action, event, or some other data that we store, manage, and link to data that users choose to submit.

The Black Hat conference took place recently and one of the sessions talks about the proliferation of cheap sensors that could be used to potentially track individuals without their knowledge. That’s an interesting use of hacking skills, cheap technology, visualizations, and of course, lots of data. While there are plenty of scary privacy implications here, especially for criminal activity, I could see other uses as well.

Imagine that you work in a retail environment? You might want to know how people move around your store, potentially in order to redesign your store. What about industrial centers? Additional data about parts flowing has resulted in more efficient workflow, but with even more sensors and data, you might find new ways to improve productivity. UPS and FedEx have used technology to vastly increase their efficiency; how many other companies could take advantage of sensor data and find new ways to run their businesses.

I expect to see more and more data being collected in all sorts of organizations (commercial, government, and others) as more sensors and other hardware become inexpensive. Just as the decline in the cost of computers has enabled almost every organization to take advantage of their capabilities, I expect the new types of sensor data will allow data professionals new opportunities. All the additional data gives us the chance to perform all types of analysis, data mining, and more. It’s a good time to be working in the data field, with new opportunities appearing every day.

Steve Jones

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2 Responses to Sensor Data

  1. I’m in the process of doing this now. I will be tracking students as they get on and off a school bus with the intentions of doing a better job at using the bus to it’s capacity.

    This is a complex situation. One one hand, you can simply assign 50 students to a bus and forget about. The problem is, many of those students will not ride because their parents take them or they drive themselves (high school seniors). Some schools intentionally overload the buses (students assigned to them) knowing there will be vacancies.

    By including sensors on the bus, we will know how many students are on the bus at any given point. We will then be able to analyze trends to determine the correct number of students to assign so that the bus is full (or nearly full) when it arrives at the school, allowing schools to be more efficient with their (costly) resources.


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