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Battelle: Physical and digital to merge

Posted on 4.01.2013

:: by Lindsay Whitehurst, Website Magazine Special Contributor ::

John Battelle imagines a “world lit with data.”

This year, every human being on earth — in uneven distribution — will create 600 gigabytes of data, the author, entrepreneur and CEO of blog network Federated Media said in a March speech at the Adobe Digital Summit in Salt Lake City. That’s 3.6 exabytes this year, and it’s only growing.

Making sense of that mind-boggling amount is going to require a massive infrastructure, one that will make data into something we can see and touch.

“What I believe is about to happen is we’re going to merge the physical with the digital,” Battelle said. Take 3-D printers, a technology that’s already beginning to take hold and literally make data into a physical object. Taken to a logical extreme, that’s technology that could make “container ships go empty,” he said.

The principle goes in the opposite direction for our bodies. Skin conductivity, blood temperature, heart beat — we can measure and record every minuscule change and upload it to the cloud. Organizing and making sense of that data could revolutionize how we deal with our health.

And perhaps the most obvious illustration of the concept is Google Glass, the product that lets people see the world through the prism of data. For marketers and retail sales, Battelle’s vision of of the future could mean a customer’s phone becomes the centerpiece of the sale.

In a few years, a customer could walk into a store at the mall and feel the buzz of coupon offers coming into his or her phone from competing merchants. Buying the right gift, meanwhile, could be as simple as pulling up a map of the store and walking straight to a pulsing blue dot. Staff could already know exactly how much interaction each individual customer wants, and payment could happen online instead of at the register.

“We need to become, as brand marketers,” Battelle said, “creators of experiences.”

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