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Rick Smolan to Show ‘The Human Face of Big Data’

Elephant seals equipped with antennas on their heads to map the oceans; satellites being used to target mosquitoes; an SMS system preventing the sale of counterfeit medicines in Ghana; smartphones that can predict you’re going to get depressed; credit cards that know two years before you do that you’re headed toward divorce; pills that transmit information directly from your body to your physician.

These and other stories are being told through “The Human Face of Big Data,” the latest globally crowdsourced initiative from Rick Smolan, the creator of the “Day in the Life” series.

“My goal with this project is to spark a global conversation about Big Data, about its potential if used wisely and the danger if we aren’t very careful. Big Data represents an extraordinary knowledge revolution that’s sweeping, almost invisibly, through business, academia, government, health care and everyday life. And, like all new tools, it carries the potential for unintended consequences. But if we are careful and wise, in the not too distant future this new set of technologies may have an impact on humanity as great as those of language and art,” said Rick Smolan.

[ Also Read: IBM Buys Out Vivisimo to Target Big Data ]

The project, made possible through primary sponsorship from EMC (NYSE:EMC), is based on the premise that the real-time visualization of data collected by satellites, and by billions of sensors, RFID tags, and GPS-enabled cameras and smartphones around the world, is enabling humanity to sense, measure, understand and affect aspects of our existence in ways our ancestors could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.

“Big Data began in computer labs with a handful of elite scientists. Soon, everyone from grade school students to grandmothers, and all points in between, will awake to the transformational impact that Big Data will have on the way we all live, govern, work and play. The Human Face of Big Data is the most engaging and captivating attempt we’ve ever seen to truly tap into, and put a human face on, the societal impact of Big Data. I’m confident that this project will have a lasting and meaningful impact,” said Jeremy Burton, executive vice president, Product Operations and Marketing, EMC.

[ Also Read: 10 Things I Want Technology to Do for Me ]

The multifaceted project kicks off on September 25 with an eight-day “Measure Our World” event inviting people around the world to share and compare their lives in real time through a smartphone app.

The project also includes “Mission Control” events in New York, Singapore and London; “Data Detectives,” a global student initiative being conducted in conjunction with the TED organization; a large-format book featuring more than 200 photographs, essays from noted writers and infographics; an iPad app; and a documentary.

The Human Face of Big Data project is editorially independent and is made possible through the support of EMC Corporation, which serves as the primary sponsor. Supporting sponsorship comes from Cisco, VMware, Tableau and Originate.

It is a globally crowdsourced media project focusing on the new ability to collect, analyze, triangulate and visualize vast amounts of data in real time.

[ Also Read: How McDonald’s Did a Burger-Crowdsourcing Campaign ]

The Human Face of Big Data is produced by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt, co-founders of Against All Odds Productions, which specializes in the design and execution of large-scale, crowdsourced global projects that combine compelling storytelling with state-of-the-art technology.

To produce these projects, Smolan and Erwitt invite teams of leading journalists and photographers (plus members of the general public) to come together to focus on emerging topics such as the global water crisis, the effect of the Internet on civilization or how the human race is learning to heal itself. Their projects result in illustrated books, TV specials, apps, and exhibits.

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