My Big Idea: We Can Do So Much More With Big Data

Big Data projects are so fearful of invading privacy or singling out individuals that they miss out on tons of real, actionable insights. Instead, they report on broad trends and generalizations that are sometimes so obvious or superficial that they have almost no value. But what if we could get more, and do more with our data? What if we could take a massive volume of data, and tailor benefit down to the individual? Better yet, what if the individual became an advocate of our system, thus improving the quality and volume of data?

Our team at Brave UX is currently working with the Federal Occupational Health division of Health and Human Services on a next-generation wellness application that involves medically-backed health models and machine learning (in layman’s terms, this means it kicks ass). But the application also involves a lot of people who stand to benefit from how the system uses and analyzes their data.

Naturally, we started at the source. We looked at how to better impact the individual, using findings from an entire population. Could we tailor or dynamically adjust the difficulty of a fitness plan, based on people with similar health metrics and behavioral patterns? Could we send a note of support when the system detects that someone’s about to quit working out – before they even realize it themselves?

Yes and yes.

Now, the hard part. How do we convince people to participate? We start by being completely transparent with any data we ask for from our users. Not only do we explain what we’re collecting and why, but also how it will directly benefit them.

This way, sharing information feels more like a partnership than a transaction.  More importantly, it never feels creepy, snoopy, or Big Brotherly. The coolest part is that our focus on delivering value to the individual is scalable --   these positive feedback-loops create a self-sustaining system. By taking the knowledge learned from hundreds of thousands of people, we can apply it to a single person and improve his or her individual experience.

It’s amazing.  We no longer worry about when our next set of data will arrive or obsess about its accuracy. The data never stops updating because our users have  a stake in their own future, and even better, we can cross-check against other people and medical studies.  

So don’t just think about what you can do with the data you already have. Think about how the data is collected, and who is generating the data. Think about how to create shared goals and mutual benefits. Be transparent, but more importantly, be consistent. In doing so, you might just turn your volume of data into a volume of advocates – and if that happens, everybody wins.

With over ten years experience in visual design, Jordan DeVries is the Director of User Experience at Brave UX. Leading the design team, Jordan guides projects through both information architecture and visual design, ensuring deliverables maintain high quality, consistency, and attention to detail.


By Jordan DeVries


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