Step into any auditorium in the Palais des Festivals this week and you’re likely to hear an entrepreneur, innovator or analyst talking about data. Data, we are told, is a driving force of increasing importance, informing and influencing each and every creative decision that brands make.
Chris Dancy, often described as “the most connected man in the world,” has a much more intimate relationship with data. For the last five years, he has been measuring every aspect of his life via an array of wearable tech. “It really just started with me scraping social media sites and cloud-based systems for my own information,” he says, “to find out where I went, what I did. Then I started doing the same with music and entertainment, then financial systems to find out what I was spending, and finally wearable systems.” Since donning his smart apparel, he has lost 100 pounds.
Dancy’s background is in software but he is a full-time speaker and advocate of data-assisted living. He is in Cannes to share his insights and opinions on how hardware and data can be used to add value to consumers’ lives, and on Friday he will join Facebook and Google on a panel for CMOs.
“Data that we measure now and consider big data, whether it comes from transactional systems, or from social media, that’s what I call soft data,” he says. “It’s taken people a long time, years even, to craft these highly curated identities on social media. The problem is it’s easily manipulated; we only show the best parts of ourselves online. Whereas with hard data, you really can’t manipulate that—these devices don’t lie. So when you start to think about how brands use physical information, it’s a whole new thing to give Nike your activity in exchange for a break on shoes, or a personalized training program.”
Dancy believes that we are going to slide straight through hard data in the next two years, into what he calls core data. For example, there are companies who will sequence your DNA and give you the results, if they can target you for things you are predisposed towards, such as premature hair loss: “Geneticists have told me that when you have that much environmental information about yourself, you can actually get around genetic predisposition through behavioral and environmental change.”
So how do brands tap into this? Dancy uses the restaurant chain Applebee’s as an example. “Everybody is ordering via tablets. Wouldn’t it be nice if you logged in with FitBit, and the menu just showed you the things you can have? And if you’ve been really active that day, it’ll show you the bigger items on the menu. That’s a fun way to use information. The best use of big data is to remove things from the environment.”
With access to such volumes of physical, social and environmental data, Dancy sees unlimited potential for enriching peoples’ lives. He theorizes a “social GPS” which can advise consumers on what kind of clothes, sunglasses and sunscreen to pack before a trip, based on the latest weather information and that individual’s skin type, tolerance to heat, and fashion tastes.
“Essentially,” he says, “I’m obsessed with data being ‘kind’.”