Data and Innovation News

Web Identities And Data Lakes Could Leverage BI To Track Sustainability Metrics

Business Intelligence and Sustainability

In the past few days I’ve read about some structural changes to the digital layer in the form of web identities and data lakes that could change the way we do BI and analytics. Being a professional in the field who also has educational background in sustainability, I believe these technologies could contribute to the development of new sustainability metrics in the private and the public sectors. I find this field to be fascinating since I am a graduate of a master’s program in resource management and environmental studies in which I conducted a study for my thesis that dealt with greenhouse gas management and reporting, among other topics, following some related training I took with the GHG Management Institute in order to conduct my study.

The first change is the move from a world of cookie-based online user behavior tracking into the world of holistic “web identity” where we can not only see what users do on their PC, but also track mobile usage on apps and understand the big picture of how users interact with the web on all their connected devices. Both Android and iOS  can already apply this concept and before we all creep out about this, it’s important to remember that advertisers can use these tools in a positive way too, to promote sustainable and active behavior. During my graduate studies I encountered a few studies about the concept of “nudge” that helps steering people's behavior towards a more sustainable one, and the concept is well applied by fitness apps that nudge us to walk 10,000 steps a day, cycle more, use public transit,  and be more active in general (e.g. Strava, Google Fit, etc.) promoting health and reducing car-dependency. The concept of web identity would enable analysts to cross reference this data that comes from fitness apps with other data from the PC, and maybe send us a little reminder to empty our recycle bin when we’re back home, appealing to those who already participate in this lifestyle and identified as "environmentally-conscious" users by data scientist. Another example could be geofencing, appealing to active users who walk outside to maybe consider buying environmentally-friendly products from  nearby local businesses and support them. The essential point is that a world of new possibilities is going to be created at the micro level, allowing for better understanding of individual behavior in order to create better solutions and content, and even better urban planning.

The macro level could also see an exciting change. Having read two of the Gartner reports for this year about BI tools, as well as integration tools, I learned that the data lake is going to play a significant role in the future of BI and analytics in the next years, side by side with the data warehouse. What that means is that data coming from IoT devices in the form of connected sensors monitoring CO2 emissions, air quality, and even noise pollution could be easily integrated into those data lakes for analysis purposes that can contribute to the development of new sustainability related KPIs, facilitating the implementation of sustainability strategies in the private and the public sector. One field I’m more familiar with within environmental reporting  due to my past studies is greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting. Right now, in order to report GHG emissions, organizations would usually manually calculate and estimate their emissions based on the quantity of fuel and electricity purchased. However, all sorts of new connected sensors and devices would allow businesses  to track these emissions almost in real-time in the future and implement emission reduction measures more quickly, in addition to the standard conservative type of reporting. Proper environmental regulation could speed up the process but that is a conversation for another time.

Technologically speaking, we are still far from the day where organizations could fully take advantage of these kind of maturing technologies and structural changes to the digital layer, but we are making progress in the right direction, and I’m sure it is only a matter of time until we start seeing a whole new generation of BI that takes advantage of data coming from various sources that are both structured and unstructured, and helps bringing into the ground new types of KPIs that will make concepts that are still a bit academic such as “sustainability” and “smart city” more measurable and applicable.