Big Shots

How is Data the New Oil?

Created on 27 Sep 2019

Wraps up in 5 Min

Read by 3k people

Updated on 14 Jan 2023

"Data is the new oil" has become so clichéd as a statement as saying "God Bless You" when one sneezes. If there would be competition to create a single unique sentence with the word 'data,' I bet everyone would lose; everyone would repeat this line now so well etched in our minds.

Despite the fact that this line used an infinitive number of times in the speeches around the world, why it stays illustrious. CEOs from Sundar Pichai to Mukesh Ambani, industries from IT to Pharma, all back this unequivocally. The markets are looking forward to every step taken by the companies in this direction. People are seeing their governments legislating over it.

It is time that people should know what makes data as valuable as the 'black gold' in the modern economy. Why something that is always increasing, unlike oil, still regarded as the most essential resource of our time?

What is data?

Everything! Indeed everything. At what time you wake up, what you eat for breakfast, what you wear, what vehicle you use to reach your office, what you do for entertainment. Everything!

It might appear irrelevant for you at the first go, but it is indeed essential for the companies out there. Anything they can quantify is usable, if not now maybe some other time, but it will be useful.

Unbelievable but true, most giant stock exchanges worldwide have trading data as old as 140 years!

How is data the oil?

What is the purpose of oil? It drives! From vehicle to machines, it provides needful energy to run them. Data has now taken to it to another level. It drives people, their choices, their likes, and dislikes, and therefore entire businesses that run around people.

How data drives the world?

What marketing survey companies did? They talked to people and tried to analyze their views. They came up with their results and helped the business. Technology has only aided this activity. It can scale and speed to analyze.

Take Google, for instance. You listen to a dozen songs for Arijit Singh. While you cry in your bed, algorithms of Google analyze that you are going through a rough time and it suggests some other songs of Arijit Singh on its own. Also, you might see 'Tadap Tadap’ by KK as well on your suggestion screen.

Your search for a restaurant on Google, trace its location on Google Maps. It shows it would take you 10 minutes to reach. How does it do it? Other mobile phones on that road are sending data to Google. Google Maps analyze their speed of changing the location, and based on that it comes up with the number.

How does it help?

Every Sunday you find a restaurant. Google analyses that you want a restaurant every Sunday. It sells this data to marketing companies. They realize that you need a variety every Sunday. Plus, you need a place to eat around you every Sunday. Soon you start receiving ads about delivery to your home. There would be restaurants of all varieties. The more you use Google, the more the search refines. Be it ambiance, taste, or cuisine.

Is Google the only player?

No. It’s just one business I talked about. BookMyShow recommends me every movie of Ayushmann Khurana that hits the theatre, and Facebook recommends me “People you may know”, Swiggy asks me every day at 6 pm if I was hungry, Twitter shows me everything that Deepika Padukone is doing and makes sure it doesn’t show me what Sara Ali Khan is wearing. Amazon very well knows that since I bought “Investonomy” by Pranjal Kamra, I might well be interested in “Freakonomics”. So you see, data is everywhere. They are trying to monetize everything you do

How does it earn?

Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Twitter-like platforms are free. Why should they be free? They help you with emails, help you chat your friends, let you have your say and help garner some self-esteem with 'likes.' They should not be, and they are not.

They all advertise! Any page you would open would have 'Google Adverts' in them. You open Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, and you will see information relevant to your liking.

These companies see your past data and show advertisements relevant to you. Your every click is counted.

They charge this money from companies for the targeted audience: restaurants, consumer goods, websites, music, and so many. You would see only those results that you 'might' like. You also have an option to tell them that certain content is irrelevant. 

This has become a win-win for companies and data aggregators.

T-Series does not earn money from Guru Randhawa songs on YouTube. It earns from the Ad slots before and after the song. The more a channel has subscribers, the broader its outreach and more its ads become expensive. 

Is it just it?

Not at all! It’s just the tip of the iceberg. Stock markets data is used to find patterns and do algorithmic trading. If you buy a packet of milk today, Big Basket will ask you to buy Corn Flakes as well.

It not only profits Kellogg’s (Corn Flakes manufacturer) but also makes them pay to Big Basket for the services they provided (based on the information they have about you).

'Cambridge Analytica’ was accused of influencing US elections. They analyzed the ideologies and interest of people on social media and catered them with similar notions about President Trump. Say, you hate immigrants, they would show his speeches against immigrants. If you are an immigrant, you will be shown him saying how outsiders contributed to America’s greatness. Have you seen something similar in India too in the last 6-7 years?

The Future

Everything is data; data is everything. Your Aadhar card usage data is with government, your debit card swipes are with banks, and they know your spending pattern, which they sell to consumer stores; who in turn have data about your style of Jeans or shoes you wear. It’s everything that you do, say, listen, read, or even think!

With Alexa and Google Home, you couple it with Artificial intelligence. Now it knows what your AC temperature is at night when you are not at home. They know when you last watched Sacred Games and that you will like Mirzapur. You must have heard of 'Self-driven Cars.'

On an ending note, the '10 Year Challenge' on Facebook was a hoax. It was Facebook's strategy to recognize you and adjust your face as per chronology for future use.

Indeed data is the new oil. Mishandle it, and it will all burn us somewhere.

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Vivek Tiwari

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Vivek Tiwari is a Software Engineer and a Data Scientist who hopelessly fell for Economics. His plans to move to Management might now save mankind from his IITJEE selection story.

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