The stars in our data: Can Facebook replace horoscopes?

The stars in our data: Can Facebook replace horoscopes?

Why do we love data? For the same reason we read numerology charts and horoscopes. We’re curious enough about our natural make-up that we’ll seek an understanding of our underlying patterns.What if we could replace that astrology chart with a sleep pattern chart, using science to explain why we are who we are? Or what if our wearable technology could help streamline our healthcare based on our unique life habits, better predicting life expectancy and leaving palm readers in the dust?



Data points are becoming like stars in the sky — we connect them to outline patterns and use these connections as guiding points, left to us to interpret. What if we could check daily reports based on our own behavior and correlating social data instead of horoscopes?

But even if we had that data, would we act on it or merely glance at it and go on with our day as usual? Will science-based recommendations drive us to action anymore than star charts?

We asked the experts, and they provided some compelling insight on current personal data trends, the influence of social data and inherent business opportunities for a Facebook-like horoscope service grounded in modern science.

Will wearble data change consumer behavior?


Keith McMillen, Founder and CEO, BeBop Sensors

I’ve spoken with designers who want to create clothing or shoe insoles to remind you to sit up straight, take a break, or even buzz if you’re walking pronated. These little reminders normally happen when you walk in front of a window or mirror, but sensors can have a larger effect. We get sucked into life and work and become less mindful of how we sit or hold our shoulders, etc., but wearing “preventative clothing” would allow us to receive a gentle reminder that we’re not doing our body any favors. But utility comes in its invisibility, being helpful and not looking like a cyborg.

BeBop sensor arm control

BeBop sensor arm control

Smart fabric technology can be used lots of places. BeBop is focused on wearables. In fact, airline companies and automakers have contacted us with interest for our technology’s integration into their seats. Specifically in wearables we’ve seen interest in integrating with backpack water carriers to monitor how much weight is being carried and if it’s well distributed. With regard to safety headgear, anyone involved in a contact sport will want to have some indication of the impacts they’ve received. Coaches and doctors will as well. We’ve also had requests from companies making bulletproof vests to measure the force of impact of a bullet.

Having a variety of choices is important — meshes, and stretches (we’re working on different fabrics). And as we’re able to offer more options to clothing manufacturers, it will become less difficult for someone to consider it. It will be less strange and will be used in more cases. It will slowly seep into people’s closets and wardrobes. Right now it’s the sports-minded people interested in performance and how they’re doing. But it will start to spill over into average people looking to improve the quality of their lives. And this all will lead to people knowing more about things like mood, posture, and how they walk. Whether people will act on it is hard to say. The ability to gather and pull data buried in noise is a real art.

Turning data into insights


Chris Bingham, Chief Technology Officer, Crimson Hexagon, Inc.

Now that everyone’s bought into the concept that analyzing social media data is important, the applications of this data extend beyond social data and can direct other departments. We’ve all got something we can learn here. The use cases matter more than the [business] verticals. Someone in charge of consumer opinion research — if they’re making shoes or electronics or food — they need to understand consumer opinions and needs and track it over time. Someone in the public relations [department] has a different set of concerns.

Crimson Hexagon social data analytics

Crimson Hexagon social data analytics

For us, in particular, there’s been a tremendous amount of hype around Big Data, and people realize that data by itself is just that, an enormous pile of data. Unless you have the right tools, visualizations, processes and applications to turn that data into insights and then actions, it’s just a bunch of data.

What one trend we see in the industry is people realizing the potential in social data — using a product that enables them to get facts from that data and then realizing that they haven’t learned much that’s relevant to business decisions. So that’s where we come in and say how to take that data and turn it into better decisions?


Relevancy is key to consumer data consumption


Brian Gentile, Sr. Vice President & General Manager, TIBCO Analytics Product Group, TIBCO Software Inc.

Marketers, retailers and insurance companies, in particular, are already using data to improve customer interaction and end-user experiences. But what lacks in most of these applications that consumers engage with, whether banking or retail, is usually context. So presenting data to a consumer in one of those environments, if done in the right context, could be helpful. There’s an opportunity here. An enhanced recommendation engine from Walmart could be helpful — for instance, if they say 74 percent of people in my age category that bought product A also bought product B & C.

Tibco analytics

Tibco analytics

The less relevant it is, the more negative the experience. Consumptional context is everything. And you can apply that to every industry. Education will be different than a dating site versus a banking service. It takes clever designers of these tools and services to make it usable and relevant. We have the potential to use data in a way that’s helpful, but there is also the potential to annoy the user.

TIBCO’s tools offer a wide set of choices for charts, widgets and graphs to visualize data, but the user has to select it. That’s why we’re making the change to offer it through a recommendation because it’s so powerful, and it’s the first tool in the world able to do this. When you shop at Amazon, for example, it’s well known for making recommendations based on browsing history. Its revenue relies on this. Its shopping service gets to know you well enough to recommend the products you want or may have had trouble finding otherwise. We give users a starting point to look at data in ways they may not have thought of themselves.

With Spotfire we’ve been building a set of recommendations; as soon as it ingests the data it can immediately offer a visualization to begin seeing the pattern in the data. Recommendations are part of the next release for Spotfire in the coming weeks.

Using data as a horoscope service


Jeff Boehm, VP of Marketing, DataGravity Inc.

One of the most difficult questions for vendors that have capabilities to make sense of data is: How do you not overwhelm users? This is where visualization and user experience design become critical. With DataGravity, you can get a high level view of what’s consuming storage space over time and see when there’s a spike in media files. Now you can drill in to see what those media files are, how often they’re being accessed, who wrote them, and should they be stored elsewhere?

DataGravity analytics

DataGravity analytics

For use cases, government and healthcare are key areas really popping out. Being able to see where identifiable information or healthcare data is inadvertently exposed before that data gets out publicly and your name ends up in headlines.

Using data as a horoscope service, one example pops up: education. They look for early signs of students not following the right path to success. They look for keywords and patterns in text to predict potential issues down the road. On the darker side, that can help predict violent activity. And on the standard track, it can help predict if a student is falling behind.


The signal vs. the noise


Jeff Revoy, President and CEO, Viralheat

Our founders didn’t come from marketing but from Big Data and scalable networking. Because we’re data oriented, we have the ability to do everything end-to-end on the social side — publishing, analytics, enterprise integration. What I talk a lot about is this concept of content is king, but data runs the kingdom. It ties into your interest around predictive [capabilities] and what can be done with social data.

Viralheat Analytics

Viralheat Analytics

Brands spend enormous amounts of money for offline data just to get perspective on customers, when the online social world is the greatest pool (review sites like Yelp and Glassdoor). Most companies are only harnessing a small amount of that data. The idea of using it for audience identification or predictive analytics is still very, very early in terms of people understanding how to take full advantage of it for brands and consumers.

It’s about understanding what content is relevant to your audience and when it’s delivered. Social public data is giant market research. Everything we do is machine learning. It’s a bit like search — the more data we process, the more effective we become. We go through billions of data points on a daily basis.

In a tech-driven world, will we realize we don’t even have the right tools to manage the signal vs. noise problem that has always been there. Consumers don’t change their behavior so much as technology makes info more accessible.

photo credit: The Pleiades (Messier 45) revisited via photopin (license)