5 cool ways connected data is being used

With more personal information in cyberspace than ever we highlight the positives
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The real news behind the rise of wearable tech isn't so much the gadgetry as the gigantic amount of personal data that it harnesses.

Concerns have already been raised over what companies may choose to do with such valuable information, with one US life insurance company already using Fitbits to track customers' exercise and offer them discounts when they hit their activity goals.

Despite a mildly worrying potential dystopia in which our own data could be used against us, there are plenty of positive ways in which companies are using vast amounts of connected data to make the world a better place…

Parkinson's disease research

Apple Health ResearchKit was recently unveiled as a platform for collecting collaborative data for medical studies, but Apple isn't the first company to rely on crowdsourced data for medical research.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research recently unveiled a partnership with Intel to improve research and treatment for the neurodegenerative brain disease. Wearables are being used to unobtrusively gather real-time data from sufferers, which is then analysed by medical experts.

The system gathers a whopping 300 observations per second from each patient.

Saving the rhino

5 cool ways connected data is being used

Connected data and wearable tech isn't just limited to humans. In South Africa, the Madikwe Conservation Project is using wearable-based data to protect endangered rhinos from callous poachers.

A combination of ultra-strong Kevlar ankle collars powered by an Intel Galileo chip, along with an RFID chip implanted in each rhino's horn allows the animals to be monitored. Any break in proximity between the anklet and horn results in anti-poaching teams being deployed to catch the bad guys.

The next phase is to monitor vital stats such as heart rate so that 'stressed' rhinos can be identified quickly and anti-poacher teams dispatched in a similar way.

Making public transport smart

5 cool ways connected data is being used

A company called Snips is collecting huge amounts of urban data in order to improve infrastructure. In partnership with French national rail operator SNCF, Snips produced an app called Tranquilien to utilise location data from commuters' phones and smartwatches to track which parts of the rail network were busy at which times.

Combining big data with crowdsourcing, the information helps passengers to pick a train where they can find a seat during peak times, while the data can also be useful to local businesses when serving the needs of commuters who are passing through.

Improving the sports fan experience

5 cool ways connected data is being used

We've already written about how wearable tech is changing the NFL, but the collection of personal data is also set to benefit the fans.

Levi's Stadium - the new home of the San Francisco 49ers - opened in 2014 and is one of the most technically advanced sports venues in the world. As well as a strong Wi-Fi signal throughout the stadium, fans also benefit from a dedicated app. This not only offers instant replays and real-time game information, but it also helps them find a parking space, order food and drinks directly to their seat and even check the lines at the toilets. As fans use the app, all of the data is collated to enhance the fan experience in future.

What's more, 17,000 beacons around the stadium can be used to pinpoint where attendees are throughout the venue to give them helpful, targeted information.

Creating interactive art

5 cool ways connected data is being used

Don't be put off by the words 'interactive installation'. On Broadway is a cool work of art that "represents life in the 21st Century city through a compilation of images and data collected along the 13 miles of Broadway that span Manhattan".

Using a range of data including Tweets, Foursquare check-ins and Instagram photos, Google Street View images, and taxi pick-ups and drop-offs, the artists created a layered visual representation of the area.

Currently on display at New York Public Library, the work was inspired by American pop artist Ed Ruscha's 1966 Every Building on the Sunset Strip - a fold-out book showing a continuous 8 metre photo of Sunset Boulevard.

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Libby Plummer


I'm a London-based journalist, editor, copywriter and content consultant with two decades of experience.

Mainly covering tech, science and space, I have extensive experience of writing and editing everything from news, features and reviews to white papers, blog posts and thought leadership bylines.

Libby has worked for MailOnline and has contributed to a wide range of titles including WiredYahoo News UKMirror Online, MetroTotal FilmStuffAll About Space and The Huffington Post UK. 

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