The last two days were full of big data, privacy, internet of things stuff and good conversations. Data enthusiasts from all over the world gathered to turn their tweets into wet earth and blown up balloons.
This sounds strange, I know. But there is a good reason for it.
October 1st & 2nd were reserved in my calendar for month for the Data Days 2014. A conference around Big Data and related topics organised by nugg.ad, a Deutsche Post DHL company. This years main theme was AIR. WATER. EARTH. DATA.
And nugg.ads Chief Making Officer @StephanNoller created a pretty impressive Tweet-Converter in the labs. The machine contained two cylinders with water, a bucket with earth on a rope and 4 balloons. A wild bunch of RaspberryPi, Arduino and other mysterious components gave live to the construction. Every tweet in Twitter with the hashtag #datadays and the words “air”, “water”, “earth” (also Luft, Wasser, Erde would work) triggered the Tweet-Converter to let a few millilitres of water to drip into the bucket with earth. Thus it would get heavier and pull down on the rope against some resistance. A marker with a needle on the rope would eventually pinch all balloons on it’s slow way up with the rope.
While this machine was impressive it also symbolised the ties between the digital and physical world. And this is what this years occurrence of the conference was all about.
The program had an interesting line up of people from start ups to automotive industry to politics and tried to cover the “data” from as much angles as possible.
Obviously this year “data privacy” was a big topic. Surprisingly (or maybe not so much) only for speaker from european countries. At least that was my impression.
I was particularly surprised by the presentation of Nan Zhao from Changing Environments Inc. She talked about the MIT and it’s media lab were a lot of innovative ideas are born and prototyped. All of the mentioned projects didn’t seem to care about data privacy in the first place. I don’t want to point this out as a negative thing immediately. It’s certainly a result of the rather relaxed or non-existent privacy laws in the US. Basically everything seems allowed until somebody complaints and then it might be regulated by a law. And thus people can focus on their idea without worrying too much about consequences. Where it seems much harder in Germany at least. Here one has to adhere to german privacy standards which for instance doesn’t allow data gathering for it’s own sake.
A Geneva Convention for Data Privacy
Another highlight of the conference was the keynote of Lorena Jaume-Palasi about “Does Big Data Need Ethics?”. She concluded that we need something like the Geneva Conventions for data privacy as well. This was a little revelation to me as I grew a bit frustrated with the data privacy discussions I followed so far. Almost all of the data privacy discussion circled around technical feasibilities. While I believe this is not a technical problem and thus must be solved by other means.
So over all these two days were packed with interesting things and good conversations about data, Internet of Things (IoT) and privacy. The venue at the nhow hotel Berlin was again a perfect choice and the organisation by nugg.ad was wonderful. I liked the fact the they tried to get a good mix of people on the panels and 31% women on stage is going in the right direction. Looking forward to Data Days 2016 😉