Big Data Gifts and Stories to Educate Your Children this Holiday Season

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As in many families, my kids don’t share my excitement for my line of work. It’s not easy to explain the value of analytics and data management to a third grader, first grader and toddler. We are all students of how data analytics is changing our world. Learn more about how Attunity can help you integrate analytics data and change your organization.

As in many families, my kids don’t share my excitement for my line of work.  It’s not easy to explain the value of analytics and data management to a third grader, first grader and toddler.

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But they love the Holidays.  Tell boys or girls that big data helps build just the right toy, grow more Christmas trees and produce more sugar, and now you have their attention.  In the spirit of helping us understand the back story of the gifts filling our homes this holiday season, here are some data stories for end users of all generations.  They also might help data-focused professionals talk about their jobs at the dinner table.

1. Building toys. It’s no secret that adult consumers and professionals can have custom products manufactured to their specifications with 3D printing.  Also known as additive manufacturing, this robotic process creates objects, ranging from medical devices to airplane components to jewelry, through successive layering of thin materials.  Now toymakers large and small are jumping into the game by 3D printing all kinds of products that are finely pre-configured by children and their parents.  For example, Makies produces and delivers “the one of a kind doll, just for you” with faces, hair, eyes and outfits that each child or parent selects online.

You can also run a factory in your living room.  You can use an Android or iOS app from Cubify to draw up specs for robot figures, pretend dinosaur fossils and sand castle molds (along with bags, shoes and other “big kid” products) that the toaster-sized Cube (recently listed at $949) will crank out on the spot using cartridges of recyclable or compostable plastic.  Cubify also offers schools, families and organizations a K-9 curriculum that guides students through problem-solving exercises to design construction cranes, rubber band racers, plate tectonic models and other cool things.

The “analytics” here are rudimentary in the sense that basic specs feed into an algorithm that instructs the Cube to “print” objects, one 70 micron-thick plastic layer at a time.  No need for extensive statistics or deep queries.  But this is a hands-on way to incite a child’s curiosity for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects that underpin many future job opportunities.

2. Growing Christmas trees. Each year Americans spend about $1 billion on 26 million natural Christmas trees, with the Fraser Fir species being the most popular thanks to their cone shape, strong branches and reluctance to shed needles.  Experts like forestry professor John Frampton at North Carolina State University have tested ways to strengthen Fraser Firs against root-rotting molds.  He started by grafting Fraser Fir tree trunks onto the stump and roots of mold-resistant Japanese trees called Momi Fir.  Such manual retro-fitting takes time and sweat, so Frampton and others have turned to genetics as a better solution.  They found for example that certain Nordmann Fir trees from Turkey can resist rot.  Selecting and breeding the strong ones can create a more naturally resilient population over time.

But it is crowdsourced, big data that takes Christmas tree science to the next level of precision and global influence.  Researchers at the University of Connecticut and Washington State University are using a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant to create and manage an open-source repository. With this, tree gurus worldwide can discover, analyze and visualize mountains of genomic, genetic and physical attribute data of a variety of organisms and their environments.

So when they become parents, our children might enjoy the perfect Fraser Fir Christmas tree, free of rot and full of needles until Martin Luther King Day.

3. Making candy! Sugar features prominently in most daily conversations with my children – i.e., how soon, how much and in what form they can get it.  The good news for sweet tooths young and old is that farmers are growing sugar beets – roughly half of US sugar production – more and more efficiently by participating in Big Data communities.

Farmers Business Network, backed by Kleiner Perkins and Google Ventures, empowers farmers to analyze their soil, seed, fertilizer and yields in the context of what peers are achieving across millions of acres.  They can identify factors that affect farm yield, profile specific fields to see what works and discover the best performing seeds for their specific environment.  In short, farmers can cultivate their sugar beets, along with corn, barley and myriad other crops, with higher precision and confidence.

The result: more sugar for holiday candy, whether it pops out of mom’s oven.

We are all students of how data analytics is changing our world.  Click here to learn more about how Attunity can help you integrate analytics data and change your organization.

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