The Human Element of Big Data: Why Smart Chips Will Always Need Smart People

The Limitations of Big Data...

As the internet creeps out of our computers and into Things, ‘Big Data’ is becoming the term on every businessperson’s brain. We’re all collecting field inspection data, watching trend lines, and trying to draw specific, meaningful conclusions from massive heaps of information. Big data and the Internet of Things are fantastic for soaking up numerical information about what’s going on around us, but that’s also their biggest flaw: numbers alone can only get you so far.

The Limitations of Big Data

Why “Why?” Matters

Thermometers can record temperatures, but if something is too hot or cold, the exact temperature isn’t as useful as the reason behind the breach in compliance. Sure, you’ll know there’s an issue, but trying to correct it without knowing the root of the problem is pure trial and error; you might hit upon the right answer, but odds are it’s going to take you much longer than necessary.

“…chips and machines and other devices in the Internet of Things are going to let you down.”

You need qualitative information to fully understand the situation, and that’s where chips and machines and other devices in the Internet of Things are going to let you down. This is where automation fails and you’re left with holes in your data that prevent you from acting effectively on the information you’ve gathered. Like a scientist who never asks ‘why,’ you’re conducting an unsuccessful experiment.

In the thermometer example, you have a very accurate reading of what the temperature was, but it’s equally valuable to understand the exact reason why it was off—an open refrigerator door, a faulty component… it’s even possible the thermometer itself could break. This is where human insight and understanding becomes extremely valuable.

But How Does it Taste?

Beyond simple yes/no, on/off, and other binary question types, there’s a ton of other information out there that can make your numbers misleading. A smart device can say that something was done, but it takes a real person to evaluate how well it was done.

“A smart device can say that something was done, but it takes a real person to evaluate how well it was done.”

How Does Big Data Taste

For example, the grill could’ve been the right temperature, but is the customer happy with their meal? Having an inspector there to make notes on those things devices don’t see and numbers can’t show makes all the difference when it comes to informed field inspections and truly impactful decisions.

By pairing a smart person up with a smart data collection device, you’re creating an amazing team that can get a complete picture of why your numbers are off and give you a better idea of what you need to improve.

Your Most Valuable Data

There’s still a little challenge involved in making this human/machine dream team a reality, though: sometimes, we have trouble communicating effectively with our electronic friends. Recording numerical data, gathering descriptive information, and keeping the right observations with the right numbers can be an organizational nightmare. If related information gets separated or isn’t recorded in the same place, that data loses its value.

The Human Element of Big Data

Mobile forms software that plays well with people and devices can ensure all the hard work you put into conducting field inspections doesn’t go to waste. Form.com makes it easy for inspectors to record data in online forms and fill out observational information all in the same place, then send that data to a business intelligence dashboard in real-time. From there, executives can take a look at the big picture generated by all the collected reports, or drill down to view individual inspection forms and gain a detailed understanding of exactly what’s going on at every location in their organization.

Working in Harmony

Big data is great for seeing that everything is running as it should be. Normal numbers and trend lines let us know that our organization is exactly where we want it to be. But the reality of the world we live in is that nothing’s perfect, and machines can only tell us so much about these imperfections. When accounting for human error, only another person can observe the kinds of mistakes we make and understand how they impact the data smart chips collect.

Behind every irregularity in your datasets, there’s a story only a real person can tell. As long people are out there being our unpredictable, imperfect selves, we’ll always need smart people to back up even our ‘smartest’ field inspection tools.

The Human Element of Big Data
Jonathan Moffett
VP of UK Sales