Big Data

I’m really enjoying my new job.  One reason is because it is exposing me to new ideas, new technologies, and new ways of thinking. Plus, I like the people.

One technology that I have learned about  that is very cool is wireless power transfer.  You might own this technology already.  Instead of plugging your cell phone into a charger, you lay your cell phone on a charging pad, that’s wireless power transfer.  Now let’s say you have a smart door lock, a door lock that you can control with a smartphone, card reader, or sensor.  How do you power that?  Well, for the most part they use 4 AA batteries.  They needed to be changed about once a year, like your smoke detector.  Not a big deal if you were a homeowner with two doors.  What if you were a college campus with 100’s or thousands of doors?  The expense in batteries, maintenance and the environmental impact of all those batteries would be enormous.  Now wire a wireless charging station in the door jam near the lock.  The lock would be recharged indefinitely at a far lower cost than just the batteries and the savings would be huge!

Now think about, toasters, coffee pots, crockpots, blenders, and appliance you currently have to plug in an outlet in a kitchen, or think of TV’s, lamps, computers, or anything you need to plug into the wall at home or the office.  Think about no cords getting into the way.  Now, you are thinking wireless power transfer.

One more, how about electric public transportation cars, charging at stops?  Or electric cars charging at traffic lights, shopping malls, supermarkets, places of business, and in the home garage or driveway?  Think about all this happening in the next five years.

The other technology I’ve learned about is BIG DATA.  What is Big Data?  Big Data is the process of examining and analysing large and varied data sets (Big Data) to uncover hidden or unknown correlation patterns, like market trends, customer preferences and other sometimes surprising useful information that can help the user make more insightful and better informed decisions.  Think a spreadsheet on steroids!

All this and a glass of Syrah got me to thinking about the implications of Big Data on wine.  Well, I’m happy to report Big Data is already on the job.  Gallo and IBM have teamed up with an irrigation systems using satellite imagery covering 20,000 acres down to ground sensors that can monitor as few as 40 to 50 vines and determine how much water those plants need for optimum yield.  Results, water use cut by 25% grape yields up 26% and you can taste the results if you drink Dark Horse Wines Cabernet Sauvignon.  The computer system handled everything, no humans were need to open or close values.  IBM is also working with Almond, Citrus and Marigold flower growers to prove this system out.

The company Enolytics is a Big Data wine company co-founded by Cathy Huyghe author of “Hungry for Wine”.  The system starts with data within the wine industry and then moves out to third party sources.  You begin by asking a question you want to answer.  How can I sell more wine to Millennials or what’s should my new label should look like?  Let’s pick we want a new label.  The traditional way of doing this is developing several labels, picking the ones liked best internal to the organization, taking those out and getting some customer feedback picking one and running with it.

Using big data, you can look at every wine being sold thru e-commerce look at that wines labeled, compare sales to company size and distribution, determine demographics, who’s buying the wine.  From this first pass you analysed thousands of labels never even seen in most wine shops.  You got a clue of those labels effectiveness over a wide audience.  You got a feel for impact with cultural and age differences.  You could next compare tourism and wine purchases within the areas where the wine sales came from to see if that label cross cultural differences.  Now, you’re getting a feel for label preference by sales, demographics and acceptance level on a world view.  You might decide you need different labels for different regions.  Or pick one that has the most universal appeal.  You could then try your label and test reactions in online consumer behavior or see how fashion designers react to it.  You could test your labels against the competition, even competition you don’t think you have like beer, soda, tea and coffee labels.  Then you can check you label for legal compliance everywhere you want to market you wine.  Now realize, you can do all this, and more, sitting at your desk in real time looking at a computer dashboard.  Check out Enolytics at

Not only will big data help winemakers grow better grapes with less water and less people, it will help make better decisions in the winemaking process, make better wines, and then allow better marketing decisions.  Big data will also help consumers make better choices about which wines to buy and from what distribution channel.  Inform on how best to pair wines with what foods.

Big Data helps us to know what we don’t know.  To learn what questions to ask.

Is there a downside to Big Data?  Yeah, some people are scared to death of this technology.  The first thing is Big Data  incentivizes the collection of data, any data, and holding it longer. Not sure I’m comfortable with that.  As a result of this data collection and retention there will be a loss of personal privacy.  Not comfortable with that at all.  Here is my biggest concern.  Big Data will tilt the playing field to BIG INSTITUTIONS.  Big to me is not beautiful, but possibly envidiable. The entity that I worry most about is BIG GOVERNMENT.  I can see how they could, are, and will use big data and reach all the wrong conclusions and that scares me. Elements of these fears are in Dave Eggers book “The Circle” and yes there is  the movie.

In the movie Tom Hanks has a line “Knowing is good. Knowing everything is better”! Is it? If it’s to make a better wine I’m all for it, if it’s to engineer society I’m not so sure.  It’s a very fine line between Utopia and tyranny.

This blog represents my opinions and not any other entity.