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Big Data vs. Best Data: The Future of You in a Networked World

In a hyperautomated world, here’s a look at how your data will become your digital identity.

Five years from now, you’ll get through your day with a device of some kind, to be sure, but it’s less likely to be just your phone. Perhaps it will be your Apple Watch, which will tap into Apple Pay to pay for your transit ride as you step onto the subway, light rail or bus. Perhaps it will be your car, which automatically anticipates your daily parking needs based on your patterns. It might even be your sneakers, logging you in and paying for a gym visit based on your regular weekly session.

We’re all about to get connected in ways that are only beginning to reveal themselves. Those interactions are going to require some level of transaction, some level of initial decision, approval and automation. At the core of it will be your self — that is, your physical identity in both the real world and increasingly your digital identity in the networked world.

How in the world, you might well ask, will all of these things know for sure that you are really you?

Cloud data in action

In the evolution of the Internet, “big data” and the power of the cloud, we’re moving from a period of cloud data to cloud action. It is a transition that has big implications for both businesses and ordinary consumers: Gartner says 4.9 billion connected “things” will be in use this year. In the next five years, that figure will grow to 25 billion.

If you’re a consumer, it can start as simply as relegating home temperature control over to the Nest thermostat on your wall. You may put in the dates and times about how you want the heating and cooling to work, but sooner or later, Nest just kind of takes it all over and does it itself based on the cloud data it turns into action

For businesses, the concept of big data today mostly means analytics reports and dashboards that provide insights about how to make smart decisions. But more and more — as with Nest — those decisions will be relinquished to the cloud itself. Tesla’s “upgradeable” cars are just one elegant expression of what’s possible now and what lies ahead.

As part of all of this — with the advent of wearables, the connected home and other types of networked devices — we’ll all be asked to give the okay to allow certain actions to happen automatically as we offload some of the more mundane tasks in our lives to be automated.

Many of those interactions are going to require some level of transaction, some level of initial decision or approval, for that automation to happen.

It makes sense that we’ll need to have some kind of trusted network to ensure that these decisions are clearly being approved by us — that the actions are being made on our behalf, and that we have “signed off” on them, so to speak.

The outlines of such a system are just beginning to take shape, but the need is clear as we start to think about establishing our own unique digital identity. We’ll need a system where we can readily ensure trust in our identity, where we know our identity is being protected, and that we are approving these myriad of transactions that are happening in the background, turning cloud data into action.

The passport to trust

Let’s consider how we can begin to construct a digital identity that is as identifiable as a universal passport.

For individuals, a big part of this will be establishing a unique digital footprint that develops and matures over time as we build a personal history of data, including permissions and approvals.

For businesses, it will be imperative to empower customers along the path to a secure identity in this new world of hyperconnectivity and automation. That means companies of every size, industry and geography must start bridging the gap now between physical and digital worlds. Much of that can start with the transaction data that gets captured every day — when you ask customers for a signature or other type of approval. It’s not necessarily the biggest data, but it is crucial data for capturing a host of “metadata” that will feed into these new unique digital portraits — and it’s among the first steps of turning your cloud data into cloud action.

From these basic building blocks we can begin to think about a framework for a connected and trusted network based on the idea of a digital identity that is uniquely ours. And that will allow us all to stride confidently into that new world where we let our cars drive us to places we can only begin to imagine.

Brad Brooks is the CMO of DocuSign. A business leader with more 25 years of experience across multiple business areas, from managing one of the largest technology brands (Windows) in the world, to operations and logistics at Maquiladoras on the Mexico border, to channel sales in the semiconductor industry, to negotiating content rights with Hollywood studios in California & broadcasters in Japan, and to leading the product development team that created one of the first scaled trials of video on demand over IP services in the U.S. Reach him @BradLBrooks.

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