Big data is everywhere, from internet searches to information sharing, storage and capture. It is so large and complex that it has affected most industries in one way or another, if not in their essence then in the ways in which businesses operate.
Big data has brought innovation into numerous sectors, and particularly those which benefit from analytics, such as healthcare where data is used to reduce costs by analysing patient data to determine the level of emergency and boost efficiency by having easily accessible health data on patients. Big data is indeed changing business. But how does it affect the way designers work? And how can we make actual sense of complex data sets?
Back in 1997, urban planner Mike Batty predicted that by 2050 everything around us in our material world would be operated by some kind of computer. He may yet be proved right: new ways of data collection and analysis are continually developing,
particularly in cities, where life is already becoming ‘smart’. Today, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created daily according to IBM’s Interactive Experience practice report in November 2014. With all this data available to collect and analyse, user-centred design methods can flourish in various new – and sometimes unexpected – ways. Data collection sensors are able to tell designers about another side of city life by allowing them to determine consumers’ needs, habits, likes and dislikes. With new technology, big data analytics is helping designers to predict consumer demands, making product design much more targeted and closer to the users’ desires and needs.
New products that rely on big data are hitting the market and are becoming increasingly intertwined with our everyday lives. The budding driverless car, for example, relies on vast quantities of real-time data to make informed ‘decisions’ based on the movements of other vehicles and objects in its immediate surrounding.
The concepts of user experience and experience design are being redefined by the arrival of ‘smart’ products. The difference between the way in which people say they experience a product is vastly different from the way in which an observer might. Interpreting one’s own experience is never a reliable source for product design and the scope for designers to create products, or redefine old products, is immense with the arrival of widespread data analytics. Designers can modify their designs, learn and evolve with the consumer, as Paul Papas wrote in Wired recently. “Experience design is rapidly becoming a de facto element in contemporary business strategy.”
Although colossal, the quantity of data isn’t what’s really groundbreaking here but rather the innovation that it creates. As Weatherhead University Pr. Gary King said, “the big data revolution is that now we can do something with the data.”