Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Big data and the assembly of global insight out of small scale, local and micro-local data 2: local and micro-local data

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on December 23, 2013

This is my second installment to a series on big data and how wide-ranging and even globally significant insight can be developed out of small-scale local and even micro-local data (see Part 1.)

I began this series with three working examples of how this can be done. And I finished Part 1 stating that I would turn here in this installment to more specifically consider local and micro-local data and what they are. In that, and as just one way to parse an overall target group that would collectively constitute an effective “global” for analytical purposes, I cite the single ZIP code or other postal code, and the areas that they cover as being local.

• Just considering postal ZIP codes as used in the United States as a working example of this, rural ZIP codes can include small and even very small numbers of residents in their covered areas.
• But single five digit ZIP codes can also include very large populations in their covered areas and certainly in densely populated urban settings.
• Following through on this example, extended Zip+4 codes, first introduced by the US Postal Service in 1980, further subdivide standard zip code areas, allowing for a more genuinely “local”, even in dense urban areas and often with just single buildings covered within a single ZIP+4 code area (e.g. 22517-1234 which is in Mollusk, Virginia – a non-urban example.)
• But large apartment or office buildings can still have large numbers of residents or business occupants so even then, a single ZIP+4 code area can include within it a relatively large population.
• To bring local here to a still finer level of resolution than can be achievable for any given postal code designator, and even for code formats such as ZIP+4, and to push this into a more explicity micro-local context, a next step would be to focus in on the demographic of one, and the individual person as representing “local” (see Big Data 1: the emergence of the demographic of one.)

If I were to derive general principles from this progressively more finely grained and localized example, they would be that:

• Local is a relative term, and micro-local is whatever you would identify as the practical finest-grain level of group to group differentiation that is currently possible.

When standard five digit ZIP codes were first introduced in the United States, they were effectively the micro-local of the day for marketing and related business purposes, even if they were an already recognized crude micro-local.

• Now as a practical matter micro-local can be the single individual,
• Or micro-local can be even more finely parsed than that, where a single individual is considered separately depending on the context they are viewed in (e.g. for when they are at work and thinking and acting in those terms, as opposed to when they are at home and thinking and acting accordingly.)
• Big data has become a practical possibility, and with a progressively larger and larger minimum overall data accumulation scale required for it to be considered “big”. And this progressive increase in scale has taken place as ability to meaningfully designate finer and finer grained “local” and “micro-local” and ability to develop and accumulate more and more data based on them have become possible.

So in one direction, big data is all about collecting more and more data and progressively more finely grained data, as organized into more finely grained models of local and even micro-local. But the power in big data is in what is done with that flood of raw data. I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will delve into that, and into demographics-based and other descriptive and predictive models. Meanwhile, you can find this series and other related material at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and also in my first Ubiquitous Computing and Communications directory page. And I also include this series in my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals.


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