How I Built a Data Analytics Platform

Recently, I was tasked with building a method for performing data analysis as a service, as well as building a data science team that could perform those services for various industries. So, I quickly kicked off a deep exploration of the field and the technologies available in the space. I found what I learned to be very engaging and it got me thinking not only about technical challenges in performing analysis, but also managing the process of doing data science in a business context.

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My Dog Recently Became a Thing in the Internet of Things

There are a lot of people out there talking about the Internet of Things. A lot of them are really enamored with the idea that it is going to be a gazillion dollar industry, but I think that there are other things about it that are more fun to think about, namely how my dog is technically a thing in the Internet of Things. Before I get to that, let me explain what the IoT is and isn’t.

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The Nike FuelBand Made Me Fat… Sortof.

As a software guy, I believe it, and as a user experience guy, I guarantee it: data entry is the biggest problem in the software world.

A lot of applications are bidirectional in the sense that I use the application for something, and the application uses me for something. I want gratification, or information, or help with something, and it wants information. So why is it that we’re still using forms for everything? Well, in the not-so-distant past, we started getting introduced to the concept of devices and human interaction working harmoniously to produce wildly fluid experiences, as well as giving the user the ability to give instant feedback and information without them having to type things. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but we’ve gotten a taste of that design philosophy, and its really nice.

Fast forward a few years and we started seeing wearables creep into the tech market. Wearable technology often makes use of accelerometers and other hardware to record data passively while you function in the world. The activities include exercise, sleeping, monitoring your vitals, walking, and things like that. This is revolutionary stuff not just because of the hardware being able to do amazing things, but rather it provides a way for people to record specific data about things and upload them into applications without having to type anything. Eventually, they’ll be including miniature wifi-access-points, computer vision, and other amazing technologies. By combining these technologies into physical devices, it gives you, the human, the ability to skip over the cumbersome step of manual data entry.

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The Grand Repurpose

I was once told by one of my college professors, who coincidently had a PHD in Organic Chemistry from Harvard, that most of innovation and discovery is a matter of using something you already have to do things that it wasn’t meant to do. While there are a lot of examples of pure innovation and discovery that don’t necessarily follow that narrative, I do see what he means, and I tend to agree with him.

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Steve Jobs as a Young Lad

I found a nice video of Steve Jobs talking about apple computers two or three decades ago.

One particular thing he said in this video that I found to be very insightful was about the magazine Scientific American‘s study on the efficiency of locomotion and how the unimpressive humans were compared to other high-efficiency animals. Despite their satisfactory showing in the contest, humans were able to easily dominate the list by simply using a bicycle.

About this finding, Steve said, “What it showed was that man is a tool maker; [he] has the ability to make a tool to amplify an inherent ability that he has.. and that’s exactly what we’re doing here.” What an astute observation.

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