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Data Communities

Dictionary.com defines a community as a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society in which it exists. Communities are often associated with physical locations such as neighborhoods, cities, or states. However, societal structures can also create the common interest that binds the members of the community. For example, college alumni associations, political parties, or religious affiliations can also serve to define a community that transcends geographical borders. For that matter, a company’s network of suppliers and their network of partners/integrators serve as two distinct communities that serve different purposes within each community bound by a common interest. The operational rules that define the community can be quite loose (e.g. Red Sox Fans) or they can be quite stringent and tightly managed (e.g SAG-AFTRA). However, seldom is the word “Community” utilized to refer to a network of data producers and data consumers even though the data usage does create communities of interest-based on the nature of the data.

Data communities are specialized communities made up of organizations that have data and organizations that want data tied together based on an intent-driven use of the data. A data community can exist within an organization, for example, there can be teams of data producers and data consumers that want to simplify the way they locate each other, exchange data, and utilize the data to increase data effectiveness within the organization. Data communities can be formed by peer organizations that both produce and consume data in different areas so those insights can be drawn by comparing or aggregating data to uncover a macro-level view of the data. Data communities can also be created that link suppliers and subcontractors of a larger company or the distribution and reseller chains that carry products to market. Data communities can even be formed based on a data marketplace where buyers and sellers come together to utilize data that can answer ad hoc or sustainable data needs.

For these data communities to thrive, there must be a sustained level of trust between the parties. Trust is not something that can be mandated by a higher authority and it is not something that can be purchased. Yes, management may be able to dictate that parties exchange data, or incentives can be attached to encourage the exchange of data but these measures are never sustainable. Communities are not just bound together by the exchange of data but by the trust that binds the participants together. Trust must be earned. One of the best methods to create an environment of trust is through transparency and choice. Transparency requires that both parties understand the motivations of the other party. For example, in a data community, the party receiving the data must understand the data they are being given; and the party transmitting the data must understand how the data will be utilized by the other party. The parties also need to be cognizant of the fact that any exchange of data can be terminated by either party if that party feels let down by the other party. Such disappointments may be based on data that is of lesser quality than expected, if one party is perceived as being less than forthcoming in describing the use case, or a party fails to accurately disclose the level of protection the receiving party provides the data.

In business school, students are taught that to maximize the value of a relationship between two members of a community, the parties must be candid, honest, and willing to share relevant information. The same is true in a data community – benefits are maximized when data is shared freely between partners. Unfortunately, not all partnerships live up to these expectations. As a result, there is often a reluctance to share data between partners because fear of failure often outweighs the desire to maximize benefits. What is needed is a way to clearly document expectations while providing an easy way to rescind established agreements when the terms and conditions are not being adequately met. These are core concepts that drove much of the work of the I3 Consortium and led to the formation of I3 Systems.

Olympic Technology

The Olympics of 2021 has been like no other.  From the perspective of the Olympic Committee, the event was delayed by one year due to the pandemic.  From the perspective of the athletes, the lack of attendees in the stands surely gave their events a different feel.  For the fans, routing from afar, the ubiquitous nature of the internet gave us all a myriad of viewing options and perspectives.  I especially appreciated the commentary provided by Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg on Peacock which brought a whole new dimension to the event.

Often overlooked in the frenzy associated with the Olympics is the role technology plays.  This year’s Olympics saw the introduction of a multi-camera replay system which allowed the action to be captured from a network of 4K cameras that allowed replay scenes to blend together to give the appearance that the replay camera was floating around the action of interest.  There was a 2D/3D image tracking system that allowed comments such as the athletes name to be tagged to the individual as they competed in their event.  Image analytics and Artificial intelligence served to keep these information tags associated with the athletes despite the number of participants and the level of activity at the event.

Vision analytics and a host of other sensor technologies were utilized to capture biometric data on the athletes at some events so the audience had some feeling for the level of stress these athletes face.  Sensor technology was also used to provide feedback to coaches and in some cases gave an additional level of information to the event judges. 

Less visible were the use of robotics and autonomous vehicles.  The use of robotics were visible on field during some track and field events.  For example, the hammers from the hammer throw event were returned from the field to the throwing platform with small robotic delivery vehicles.  It has been estimated that there were 8-10 specialized robots that assisted in event management and additional units that served as guides and information kiosks for attendees complete with holographic displays.  In addition, there were reportedly 100 autonomous vehicles that served as shuttles for the athletes that ferried them from the airport and between some event venues.  Further, despite not going into commercial service until 2027, there was even a working Maglev in use at the Olympic venue that could travel at speeds more than 374mph.

Image recognition was used at the Olympics as a security screening system that allowed athletes and staff to be quickly identified and unidentified people in secure areas could be easily highlighted for security personnel.  While not a part of the original plan, this same system also served to identify individuals who had come into contact with people who might have been infected with the COVID virus.

For some events there were virtual-reality (VR) experiences that engaged spectators as though the spectators had front row seats for these events.   These VR systems utilized 8K technology in order to provide spectators with an ultra-sharp and clear immersive experience. 

There was also an instant translation technology that could be used by attendees’ cellphones.  This was a high performance system that has been designed to go beyond acting as a translation intermediary and instead created a conversational language interface between people who spoke different languages. 

A number of the buildings on the Olympic campus were equipped with Retrofit technology that sealed the surfaces of the buildings in a way that reduces the buildings CO2 emissions while extending a building’s structural life.

While it was not ready for the Olympic event in 2021, one company had even developed a satellite based system that could create a manmade meteor shower.

As the Olympics drew to a close, it seemed as though there should be an additional round of gold medals awarded for technology’s contribution to the games.  The Academy Awards, long known for the awards associated with entertainment excellence, has seen how technology plays a major role in progressing our understanding of technology and gives awards to recognize technological achievements.  Maybe it is time the Olympic committee should also award gold medals for technological achievements in support sports or the logistics challenges that must be overcome to bring these events to the public.