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Our connected world: Big data, big profits and no privacy

Pras Subramanian

In our ever more connected homes, humans are largely being taken out of the equation in a trend called home automation. Smart meters in homes can send data to utilities in order to dynamically regulate peak consumption periods, and thermostats like the Google-owned (GOOGL) Nest can ‘learn’ and adjust energy usage based on our patterns.

Nest also purchased Dropcam, a company that makes connected cameras that can be placed all over the home, with cloud recording allowing users to monitor their homes and offices anywhere. With companies like Google able to capture data from the home (as well as video footage), for storage anywhere in cloud provided, by say, Amazon Web Services (AMZN), is our privacy at risk?

Danielle Hughes of Divine Capital thinks all this connectivity is coming at a price. Computers are learning to talk to one another in order to exchange data, and this is raising concerns.

“We are turning into a what is being remarketed back to ourselves,” she says in the attached video. “Everything that we do…all of the data from opening the refrigerator in the night, to when you use the toaster, and how often you use different accessories in your home, all of this stuff is being sent to Big Brother, and we pay a price for that, because we don’t get paid back for it in terms of lower pricing, it’s just more accessibility.”

Macke astutely points out that we really live in a post-privacy world, where younger people have no issue sharing personal information on social media, in addition to sharing info with brands. But Hughes thinks this is just beginning.

“I think the next iteration of what will happen is machines will start to teach other machines, and they’ll start to learn from each other. There will be this gaming of machine information, and what it can tell back analytically to the big companies.” To her, this is the future of big data.

But it doesn’t mean our fast coming future lacks an investable angle. Hughes says the company to keep on eye on here is IBM (IBM).

“IBM is projecting $20 billion in revenue from big data and all the ancillary pieces of that puzzle in 2015,” she concludes. “They are the biggest one in the big data space, and they’ve made a huge investment, about $23 - $24 billion in buying up different companies in the space.”

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