This editorial was originally published on 19 Jul 2017. It is being re-run as Steve is traveling.
The world is changing quickly, and it's becoming incredibly personalized thanks to digital technologies. I saw a fascinating video from GE on digital twins. These are digital representations of their products, using specific data (sensor, visual, weather, settings, etc.) to build a model of a specific piece of equipment. This model runs on a platform and constantly analyzes new data to evaluate and predict the performance of the system. With equipment like jet engines, power plants, and more, a tiny increase in efficiency can translate into incredible cost savings or revenue increases.
The idea of using digital twins is taking hold in other fields, and I expect that we'll continue to see all sorts of digital representations and models of real world items. We are even starting to see this in medicine, with personalized treatments for various diseases, including cancer. By using more data, and powerful computing capabilities, we can tailor our treatment to the individual and their particular ailment.
This personalization has an annoying side as well, after all many of us have experienced more targeted advertisements and annoying uses of our personal information, however much of that is crude, and lacking in sophistication. Perhaps if the models using data about me would be less annoying if companies didn't try to sell me a laptop a week after I've purchased one, or show me sales on products when I'm looking at SQL Server articles.
I'm amazed and hopeful that our computing systems will evolve, with more talented data scientists blending their knowledge in some problem domain with powerful computing capabilities and lots of data. I expect that some of the challenges we face with our aging infrastructures and physical systems will be helped by extensive data and powerful machine learning models specific to an instance.