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‘Deep data’ to become the greatest natural resource, tech execs say

Last Vegas — Sidestepping privacy issues, CES kicked off its 2019 show with a rousing call for tech to address some of the world most pressing problems: disease, climate change, poverty and more.

“We are going to solve huge human problems in the next two decades,” said Consumer Technology Association president Gary Shapiro, in his state of the industry address.

Those solutions will depend on a network of public and private partnerships and collaborations that transcend industry boundaries, Shapiro said.

“Gone are the days of discrete vertical silos. All is interconnected.  We need to think horizontally: How can technology power homes, cities,  countries, and across political aisles.”

Shapiro announced two new CTA initiatives: a program tracking tech industry greenhouse emissions and a $10 million investment in firms with founders from underrepresented gender and minority groups.

Keynote speaker Ginni Rometty, CEO and president of IBM, talked about the social benefits to be derived from “deep data” — data that has yet to be collected or analyzed.

Rometty estimated that less than one percent of data is collected and analyzed.

“If you could, wonderful things would happen.”

A few new innovations illustrate the potential. Rometty announced this morning the launch of a system that uses data from crowdsourcing and aircraft to create extraordinarily accurate local weather forecasts. This Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System updates every hour, at range of three kilometers.

The privacy issues around GRAF are murky. The system depends on location and atmospheric pressure data collected from smartphones running The Weather Channel app. IBM acquired that app along with the rest of The Weather Company in 2016.

Rometty said IBM is betting on smartphone users being willing to give up their data.  She also said IBM has developed a set of principles around data research, among them the notion “that data belongs to the owner.”

She didn’t mention The Weather Channel app has been sued for misleading users and selling their location data to advertisers and investors.

Rometty talked about a few other deep data solutions. IBM has also developed a new “fingernail sensor,” a wearable device that couples with AI to monitor and even provide early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia.

In the future, Rometty said, “data will be the greatest natural resource.”

“But we have got to usher [these technologies] safely into society.  Trust and security will be preconditions for them to survive.”

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Linda Baker, Staff Writer

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves staff reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes early-stage VC, freight-tech, mobility and West Coast emissions regulations.