This morning when I woke up, I turned on The Weather Channel to help me make plans for the day. There was a commercial for their services that showed Noah out in the hills with two hands superimposed on the scene to represent God. The hands were gesturing while there was talk about 40 days and 40 nights of rain and the need to build an ark. The message from The Weather Channel was about the “Miracle of Personalized Weather.” This is an example of personalized information that they and others are gradually making available to customers.
Better services and solutions are facilitated by storing and analyzing digital information about things customers need and ask for. Everywhere vast amounts of data are being collected and mined to provide commercial value. They are turning the digital data explosion into gold. This is likely why Facebook’s IPO (Initial Public Offering) is being valued higher than the market capitalization of established companies like McDonald’s and Hewlett Packard.
Of this new generation of innovators, Amazon is the company that I use most often. My on-line account shows every purchase that I have made since January 1998. I may have even made purchases before that, but in any event, the information they have been collecting about me is significant. They are mining it to analyze my buying habits, find things that will interest me and compare my inquiries to ways other customers have satisfied similar needs. All of this is available to help me make more efficient use of my time and better purchasing decisions. I also learn from the feedback of others and contribute my own comments when I can. Teamed with UPS, FedEx and USPS, I can track most shipments and see when they will or have arrived even minutes before.
I suppose that everything has its downside. Perhaps some of the information being collected could be used to take unfair advantage of consumers if it becomes too concentrated. Thus far this does not seem to have happened. There are many opportunities left where digital data and data mining can bring value to our lives. Healthcare is a perfect example with its paper legacy and consumers who have limited roles in decisionmaking. Challenges like these make progress especially difficult. However, as I look back on my 15-year relationship with Amazon, progress and value go hand in hand over time. Success requires participation, not just spectators. As learning proceeds and roles change, benefits of mobile, information and network-based solutions will no doubt continue to grow. Expect this to be a continuing subject for this blog. Please share your views and comments.