A billion to one Using analytics to make the crowd personal

03 June 2015

The creation of products and services derived from crowd-based insights is the foundation of the “billion-to-one” experience. Taking your characteristics and behavior and contextualizing them with data from many thousands of other individuals allows designers to deliver products and services that are, or at least feel, unique.


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TANYA OTT: This is The Press Room, Deloitte University Press’s podcast on the issues and ideas that matter to your business today. I’m Tanya Ott. Did you know the world is home to more than a billion smartphone users? We are talking to people, listening to music, playing games, and using apps that make daily tasks simpler or nudge us toward healthier choices. Put down that potato chip!

What really matters is the data – the data we generate actively or incidentally, data we share, data that enable organizations and entrepreneurs to give us new services and opportunities. The rules and opportunities for data-driven services are going through unprecedented change.

I’m getting in my car in Atlanta. I can see some traffic congestion already. I’m firing up an app that’s designed to get me across town fast. Bill Eggers turned me onto this app – called WAZE.

BILL EGGERS: I used it actually to get to work today and avoid a lot of traffic in the DC area.

TANYA OTT: Eggers is the global public sector research director for Deloitte LLP. And through the magic of audio editing, we’re out of my car and into the studio, connected by phone.

BILL EGGERS: What WAZE does is it helps us find the most efficient routes in any city all over the world. The way it works is by actively sharing reports through simply keeping WAZE open while I’m driving I’m actually developing a real time landscape of the traffic environment including congestion, speed traps, accidents all sort of things. And all I need to do is enter my destination, where I want to go, to access this knowledge from the crowd. The millions of other WAZE users to get the possible route to take at that time.

TANYA OTT: Eggers calls that Billion to One. Taking data collected from thousands, millions, even billions of users and using it to refine services and products to meet individual needs.

BILL EGGERS: Now that’s an amazing thing when you think about it. Ten years ago to get the same sort of thing, well, it wouldn’t have been possible. Even though all the roads were architected it would have cost probably hundreds of dollars a month for a subscription.

TANYA OTT: You talk about the core capabilities and of course the WAZE example is a great example of crowd data because there are a lot of people traveling and they’re able to use those large data sets to help them, almost instantaneously, figure out how do I get Bill Eggers from one location to another in the most effective way. But another one of those core capabilities you write about is sensing. Tell me a little about that.

BILL EGGERS: This sensing is really an amazing capability we have now, because essentially with the internet of things and machines talking to each other, the ability to do sensing is going to increase exponentially and offer the unprecedented ability to gather and assess evidence in real time. So, an example of this is this app called Sleep As, and what it does is allows you to wake up at the appropriate time and then track and graph your sleeping habits and warn you if you’re running on a sleep deficit. And it also can determine whether you’re snoring or talking during your sleep and it even claims to help to detect conditions such as sleep apnea. So basically it’s sensing in real time what your different actions are and everything and then …. The end product is it can offer you insights into how to fix that. Now before, very, very difficult… so expensive. You’d have to have someone staring there and watching you sleep and wake up each morning. But now we have technology that enables that sort of sensing behavior.

TANYA OTT: One of the other examples you use was really fascinating to me – it’s the iHeal biosensor that’s used with drug addicts. Can you tell me about that one?

BILL EGGERS: It’s a wrist worn biosensor and it tracks indicators of arousal or stress in drug addicts. So it can measure electrical activity in the skin and body motion, skin temperature and heart rate and then transmit that data to a mobile app that then delivers personalized drug prevention intervention to users. And over time it would actually keep all of this information and use it to track behavioral and then fine-tune its real-time interventions. So … it may try certain interventions and if they’re not working over time and if you can see the patterns continuing it will try other ones. And that’s based on getting knowledge from lots of different users.

TANYA OTT: Eggers says this can empower users to change their own behavior. For instance, I’ve got a lead foot. I know that. But if I got a regular digital report on my driving and how it compares to other drivers …. Well, I might lay off the gas. A bit. Eggers uses a similar technology himself to reduce energy costs in his home.

BILL EGGERS: We have in our house a Nest thermostat. What Nest does is it allows me to control the temperature in our house from a mobile app at all times and it starts to learn your routines. And one of the things it will do is whenever we’re using our temperature in a more energy efficient way in our house better than our neighbors we will get a green leaf. And the goal is always to get 30 green leafs in a month. And the more you’re seeing that it helps to change your behavior and you start to figure out how to use less energy. And tying this back to the sensing one, there’s actually another product that you can get which will connect to the Nest sensor and as soon as you close your eyes and you’re asleep it will then connect with the sensor and it will bring the temperature down in your house by a couple degrees. Because you don’t actually don’t need it that low, so it’s really an amazing ability to do all these things using sensors and again … we’re learning from what not only hundreds, but thousand or millions of others are doing. I was with some of the chief engineers from Nest in London and one of the things they said is there’s been a lot of testing and now on average, people get about 9 to 12% reduction in energy use. Now if you think about if, you know, half the people on the planet got that kind of reduction of energy use through this thing, that’s a bigger reduction than you can get from any other kind of intervention that government may do and it wouldn’t actually cost government necessarily any money because it’s basically people learning from private learning from each other and learning from their own behavior and you’re aggregating that impact.

TANYA OTT: I’m Tanya Ott and I’m talking to Deloitte LLP’s Bill Eggers about his article Billion to One. Eggers says this idea turns a consumer into a “prosumer”; someone who takes part in the production process as well by actively or passively providing feedback on a product. But, he says, it doesn’t have to be just products. It can be services or something as fundamental as teaching kids.

BILL EGGERS: Think about the traditional model of education where the level of that actually consumer, i.e. students and parents, in most of developing the learning design, the learning plan, the assessing inputs. It’s very, very low. It’s given to them by the school district, by the school, the teachers and so forth. Because they’re the experts, right? Well increasingly a new approach to this is based on the billion to one. We talk about a school called AltSchool, based out of San Francisco. It’s a network of K-12 schools, and their stated purpose is to redefine the value chain for education, leveraging technology to offer personalized learning experiences. And the way that they do that is students help personalize their own learning plans and they adapt them to meet their changing needs. And they’re providing and receiving constant feedback regarding their progress from the school. So the students are assessed regularly through computerized tests and they even develop with the schools their own learning playlists. Which is a totally new and radical model, but it’s the same sort of thing we’re seeing in industry after industry today.

TANYA OTT: You know, another element of it I understand is that there’s a lot of videoing of the students. There’s, you know, some people who could look at it and go, that’s kind of creepy!

BILL EGGERS: Well, yeah, there’s a lot of things about today’s technologies and so forth that are available that some people get a little bit nervous of at the beginning. But then they get used to them. We actually have an article up on our Government 2020 website about teachers who can read minds. And it’s essentially that we actually have the technology now, just in the same way we saw with the wrist watch around drug addiction, to understand which students are having a hard time understanding in real time, by their facial expressions, by other things and also to where they might be confused and needing help, but they’re not raising their hands. And the teachers can then sense in a much better way where they might need to slow down and so forth and how to teach differently and when they’re getting a lot of momentum, when students are understanding more to keep going faster. Now veteran teachers can sense some of that because of experience, but it’s a very difficult for new teachers to do that. Now we have that technology to enable it. But the way you think about it is rather than a creepy thing it’s a way of enhancing performance through experiential sort of a model where we’re learning and we’re getting constant feedback rather than just the end of the year sort of testing, which is, I think, very old school.

TANYA OTT: Setting aside the debate over whether this kind of approach is good from an education standpoint, because we could probably do a whole podcast series on that one alone … Consider the economics. A lot of these ‘prosumer’ product experiences are premised on the idea that people have access to technology, whether it’s a smartphone, a computer or a biometric bracelet. Is there concern about widening the gap of the “haves” and “have nots”?

BILL EGGERS: Well, I think that the great thing about the technology era that we’re in today is that these technologies are improving at an exponential pace. And the cost is also going down. So whether it’s storage capacity, processing power, sensors, and everything, the technology is getting better and better very, very quickly and the cost is plummeting. Which is enabling doing all sorts of things, which would have felt like science fiction. Look at the cost of cell phones right now. Mobile phones have the highest take-up globally of any technology in the history of human kind. And the costs are down such that you can go into almost any village in India and Africa and you can find people with mobile phones and they prioritize that over other areas. And I see the same thing happening with these sorts of sensors at the same time. The costs are going down and that’s going to, over time, allow this to move into the mass market. And that’s how a lot of these technologies work today. And at the same time there’s experiments going on with governments all over the world where governments are investing in some of this because they believe they can reduce their costs. For instance, in health care by putting sensors and even robots and so forth in seniors’ homes and letting seniors live out of their homes, it’s going to cost a lot less than nursing homes and they prefer to do that. So we have the opportunity to take some of this technology, enhance the experience of citizens while actually reducing costs. But to do so we have to re-envision and reimagine what the whole experience is.

TANYA OTT: Key to all of this I would imagine is building trust. Because you’ve got to, as a company, be able to convince a consumer or “prosumer” that it’s okay that you have their data.

BILL EGGERS: Yeah, and people are not going to share their data with organizations they don’t trust. And so trust is a key ingredient to making the B to 1 experience work. And let’s face it, as you mentioned earlier, some people find this growing experience of combining digital exhaust with behavioral science to target and customize offerings for individual consumers a bit creepy, right? So you have to find ways of avoiding the creepy factor when delivering this experience and to do so it’s important not to force it on customers. Sharing data should require users to opt in, rather than it being the default. You know, as an example, there’s a health start up called GingerIO. It targets extremely sensitive behavioral health problems such as depression with its mobile app. So, for a patient diagnosed with depression the app would track data such as how many users are moving and who they’re calling, emailing and texting and how often. And by comparing that data against a larger population the company then can detect patterns that might be consistent with depression or even suicide attempts and then alert the users physician. Now, for that you would say, wow – that’s something that is very highly, highly sensitive. And so the approach only works because installing the app is purely voluntary on the part of the patient . And what’s interesting is that, what they’ve found at GingerIO is that because they’re providing value back to individuals that people are using the app as a tool to improve their lives and they recognize the need to understand their behavior and to help them do it.

TANYA OTT: Eggers says all of this requires a different mindset. Companies may want to think about shifting organizational focus from products and services to experiences, informed by how consumers actually use them. It’s no longer One to Billion … but rather, Billion to One. And that’s the title of Bill Eggers latest article at Deloitte University Press. Check it out at www.dupress.com. I’m Tanya Ott for The Pressroom, a production of Deloitte University Press. Thanks for listening! If you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss a single episode – and leave us a rating and a comment! You can email us at podcasts@dupress.com, or follow us on twitter @du_press. We’d love to know what you think.

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