During my last trip to Mumbai, India, I was staying in a hotel at their famous Juhu beach. My trip was relatively short, and I was debating whether to indulge in social activities. In the early morning, I was tempted to go for a jog at the beach. By the time I sat down for breakfast, I had messages from two of my friends asking how long I was going to be in Mumbai. I track my jogging activities on Endomondo, which is linked to my Facebook page. I did not have to call any of my social circles to announce my arrival in Mumbai, as Endomondo took care of it.

Big data is beginning to provide us a powerful mechanism to record observations in a public way and broadcast them worldwide, at Internet speed. Each photo I place on Facebook is available to my social circles. I come from a big family and have 65+ first cousins distributed across many countries and continents. As I immigrated to United States in early 1980s, I started to lose contact information and other pertinent details. As my family and I graduated from sharing addresses and phones to emails and Facebook pages, we found it was relatively easier to renew connections with the help of digital communication, and social media, as most of my cousins had email addresses and were active on Facebook. Although today the extended family is distributed all over the world, we feel connected to each other, as we see each other’s activities, share in commenting and placing “Like” buttons, and can connect to each other despite each of us constantly changing contact information.

So, what are these observations? How do we participate in these observations? Do consumers have the ability to control how to make these observations, private, public, or shared with a select group? How biased are these observations? As marketers, can we rely on these observations? How do marketers convert observed data into meaningful insight? Where are the limits to the computing power in dealing with velocity, volume, or variety of data? This chapter will tackle these questions and position the first proposition to marketers.

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