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Little Data Yields Big Information

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Onions Photographed in India – Premise Photo

You are about to learn a new term – “hyperdata” collectors. That’s the term used by the founder of Premise.

Employing 700 people in 25 countries around the world, Premise collects thousands of data points a day in the form of photos, mostly shot by under-employed college students and homemakers. The photos range in subject matter but are taken primarily of food in markets — be it mom-and-pop grocery stores, bodegas, open-air markets or Wal-Mart.

The photos, which illustrate placement on a shelf, product quality and price, are meta-tagged with time and location, offering real-time data that aids a range of interested parties — hedge fund managers, shipping agencies and food companies included.

The concept of hyperdata has very significant implications for retailers as well. Standard statistics might project next summer’s ice cream sales. Tracking weather, current sales and external events – big data predicts next year’s sales. But what about upstream of retail? That’s where Premise seems to have an edge. Last year the company predicted a shortage in onions in India.

Onions are a crucial Indian staple, and a leading inflation indicator for the country, but the Indian central bank didn’t react to the price increases to change interest rates to strengthen its currency. Newspapers didn’t start reporting the spike until late August. It took protests and a tripling in price until the currency finally got moved in early September.

If onions and the economy seem disconnected to you don’t fret. But it is good to know there are big brains somewhere who can connect those dots.

For now I’d suggest every retailer look into Premise and their hyperdata collectors. There’s gold in those smartphones.

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