Open data as a term is relatively new, but the concept is not. The idea that information should be freely available for unrestricted use has been around for awhile, but didn’t really take off before the rise of the Internet made it feasible to share data quickly and globally. Add in the recent popularity of big data, and it makes a lot of sense that public datasets are on the rise as well. Enormous amounts of valuable data, including everything from climate projections to genome sequences, have been made available by the organizations that own them and are now free for download: on Amazon Public Data Sets, Data.gov
, and more. The possibilities are endless, as researchers, businesses, and citizens from around the world have access to data that would otherwise be extremely expensive and time-consuming to collect. The challenge that follows is how these researchers and businesses are going to handle these large datasets, including storage, organization, and analysis.
According to my mobile device I took about 5,300 steps yesterday, which was slightly more than the day before. While this is interesting for me to track my activity levels, I doubt most other people would care, except perhaps my doctor or health insurance provider. But this does put me in a growing group that is potentially leading the way to a revolution in healthcare.
In a recent Washington Post article, currently one in 10 American adults own fitness tracking devices. In addition there has been an “explosion in extreme tracking” where more and more people use them not just as step counters, but also to monitor heart rate, stress, sleep cycles, and just about every other possible measurable biometric via wearable technology. In fact, we have a couple of people who fit this description here in our own offices. This is creating tons of data – big data – for doctors and insurance carriers to synthesize.