Presented By
O’Reilly + Cloudera
Make Data Work
29 April–2 May 2019
London, UK
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Executive Briefing: The intelligent edge and the demise of big data?

Alasdair Allan (Babilim Light Industries)
12:0512:45 Thursday, 2 May 2019
Average rating: *****
(5.00, 4 ratings)



What you'll learn

  • Understand how machine learning and edge computing will change the big data landscape


Alasdair Allan explains why the current age, where privacy is no longer “a social norm,” may not long survive the coming of the internet of things. To a lot of people, the digital internet still isn’t as real as the outside world. Big data is all very well when it’s harvested quietly, silently, and stealthily behind the scenes. But it’s going to be a different matter altogether when your things tattle on you behind your back.

The recent scandals and hearings around the misuse of data harvested from social networks have surfaced long-standing problems around data privacy and misuse, while the GDPR in Europe has tightened restrictions around data sharing. However, the new generation of embedded devices, and the arrival of the internet of things, may cause the demise of large-scale data harvesting entirely.

In its place, smart devices will allow us to process data at the edge, making use of machine learning to interpret the most flexible sensor we have, the camera. Interpreting camera data in real time and abstracting it to signal rather than imagery will enable us to extract insights from the data without storing potentially privacy- and GDPR-infringing data. Processing imagery using machine learning models at the edge, on potentially nonnetworked enabled embedded devices, provides the opportunity to feed back into the environment in real time, closing the loop without the large-scale data harvesting that has become so prevalent.

In the end, we never wanted the data anyway; we wanted the actions that the data could generate. Insights into our environment are more useful than write-only data collected and stored for a rainy day.

Photo of Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan

Babilim Light Industries

Alasdair Allan is a director at Babilim Light Industries and a scientist, author, hacker, maker, and journalist. An expert on the internet of things and sensor systems, he’s famous for hacking hotel radios, deploying mesh networked sensors through the Moscone Center during Google I/O, and for being behind one of the first big mobile privacy scandals when, back in 2011, he revealed that Apple’s iPhone was tracking user location constantly. He’s written eight books and writes regularly for, Hackaday, and other outlets. A former astronomer, he also built a peer-to-peer autonomous telescope network that detected what was, at the time, the most distant object ever discovered.