Beyond data with Jane Macfarlane

Jane Macfarlane, Chief Scientist and Head of Research for Here, the mapping and navigation company, is sure about it. People should not just get caught up in big data. ,,The key is how we translate all the data.’’
The experts of HERE – the location cloud company, which last year Nokia sold to a consortium of German car companies BMW, Audi and Mercedes’ mother company Daimler – are working on the maps of the future. A future which is not so far away anymore, says chief Scientist Macfarlane, one of the keynote speakers of the Beyond Data Event.

Can you tell me about the map of the future? How does it look like?

The two dimensional map has been replaced by smart devices with a lot of data layers on top. The map of the future is 3D, real-time and personal. I see the map as a contextual consistency.
For example a little sensor on a car can give so much information. Just consider the data from windshield wipers. We collected data from sensors on the windshield wipers of taxi’s in Eindhoven over the course of three to four years. By analyzing all this data, we realized we could locate rainstorms in real time. We all know these kind of local storms where traffic speeds drop suddenly because of heavy rain. With this information we can warn drivers or even advise them to take another route. And this is possible just with the information from one little sensor.
The beauty of connected vehicles is that they carry a wealth of data. They can give us information about their speed, about the road or the weather.

So the map of the future will also predict the future?

,,Exactly, that is why we need so much data and a lot of very smart algorithms. But as a driver you don’t need all this information. You just want to know how the traffic is on your way to work or home. Maybe if you have some time in between appointments, you’d like to know that there is a pop-up flower market just around the corner or how popular the restaurant is where you are going to meet. The map of the future will give you this kind of useful, personalized information. I call this hyper locality, and it’s important to making all this data mean something to consumers.

And the developments in the field are going quick?

Yes, carmakers have changed their tune about connected cars. The reason behind that is this technology has the potential to save lives. I feel very strongly about that. With all the information we can gather, we can do a much more effective job of warning drivers.
It is very disturbing that all though so much work has been put into the safety of cars, the amount of causalities is increasing in the US, mostly because of the other devices people bring into the car.

What are in your opinion the obstacles of big data?

We shouldn’t collect data for the sake of collecting data. But we have to manage these huge data pools and turn them into useful insights for citizens. We need a whole new way of computing the data. This is what we’re focused on at HERE. How to store and analyze this data,  and how the clouds and the networks have to function.

The Beyond Data Event is also about collaboration. How important is it that parties work together?

That is very important. Because we can have the technology, but if you talk about smart cities, you talk about  transportation and about local government. So public and private cooperation are essential.

The Big Data Event is in Eindhoven. Here has a special connection with the city?

Yes, we have. We are going to open our new office in the city center of Eindhoven. At the moment we are hiring people with a background in computer science and artificial intelligence to work on our maps. I really think the Beyond Data event will be very inspiring, because it will go deeper than other more common data events.

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