Leveraging the human data source

Blog Posts:Mu Sigma
Published On: 12 January 2015
Views: 213

Even with all the advances witnessed in the analytics space over the past 10 years, one door has been firmly closed: accessing implicit data from the human mind. Yet a recent patent awarded to Toshiba for “Systems and methods for providing retail process analytics based on physiological indicator data” provides a glimpse into what’s to come.

Toshiba’s technology is about generating retail process analytics information based on customers’ physiological indicator data and the retail environment condition. The technique leverages sensors to monitor customers’ physiological and biometric data such as temperature, perspiration, galvanic skin responses, brain wave activity, heart rate, respiration, pupil dilation, etc. and uses this information to manipulate retail processes such as personnel training, advertising and merchandising.

A department store, for instance, could monitor physiological indicators from customers. Psychosocial analysis of this data would give insight into how customer engagement can be improved. For example, if a customer shows signs of happiness when looking at a product, but then shows disappointment after looking at the price, the retailer could in theory immediately offer a discount or promotion in order to seal the deal. The amount of discount or promotion could be calculated based on the retailer’s knowledge of the customer’s past purchase patterns.

It’s important to note that we are not aware of any retailers using such a system – but the possibilities are intriguing.

Another application might be in security services with somatic surveillance replacing frisking and surveillance mechanisms that are currently blind to human emotions and subtle physical cues such as breathing rate, temperature and perspiration that might help identify a person with nefarious intent. These physiological indicators could be measured through sensors and cameras and communicated over networks treating each human as a node. This information when analyzed could identify potential threats posed by nodes demonstrating physiological indicators associated with fear, anxiety, hatred or destruction. These threats could then be proactively defused through isolation and other tactics.

Other applications of the human physiological data being explored by research include:
– Recording the emotional responses of subjects to certain stimulus in order to evaluate user experience
– Real-time analysis of physiological data to monitor a person’s health conditions (e.g., during daily activities, in hospital environments, etc.)

With the dawn of the Internet of Things and an increasingly inter-connected world, we are currently able to capture many novel data elements that provide deep insight into human lives. But, even with these advancements, all that we can capture are the actions. The ability to capture data on human emotions and make them quantifiable and measurable – to capture human data sources – would bring analysis to a whole new level.

Of course there are a myriad of privacy and legal issues that would need to be explored before this analysis becomes commonplace. Can you see the potential for this type of data collection and analysis in your organization?

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