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Global Initiative Turns Students into Data Detectives to Shine a Light on the Power of Big Data to Shape Our Lives and Change the World

Human Face of Big Data Gathers Insights from Students Worldwide to Share at Second Annual TEDYouth Event

SAUSALITO, Calif., Nov. 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Beginning November 14 through the end of the year, students ages 13-18 around the globe are invited to participate in "Data Detectives," an engaging web experience to learn about how Big Data will impact their lives and the world they will be inheriting. Data Detectives is the student component of the Human Face of Big Data, a global crowdsourced project conceived by "Day in Life" series creator Rick Smolan. It aims to help people better visualize the ways Big Data is shaping the future of the planet, and includes a smartphone app, worldwide events, a large format illustrated book with an interactive iPad app, and a documentary.

The Data Detectives initiative invites students to answer questions, explore fascinating examples of how Big Data is changing their world, interact with real-time data and see how other students around the globe are impacted in similar and different ways. Students can explore the Data Detectives web experience at

Insights from the project will be unveiled at the second annual TEDYouth event on Saturday, November 17th in New York, where 400 local high school students will gather for speaker sessions featuring 20 scientists, designers, technologists, explorers, artists, and performers who will share short lessons on what they do best. More than 100 parallel independently organized TEDxYouth Day events will take place in 42 countries around the world with the intent to inspire and engage today's youth.

As newly deputized "Data Detectives," students will be able to explore, discuss and pull eye-opening insights from dozens of stories about Big Data. These are just a few examples of how Big Data is coming to life in the real world:

  • Ingestible Sensors: Tiny vitamin sized pills the size of a grain of sand containing integrated circuits and a battery that transmits heart rate, respiration, body posture, even sleeping patterns as they travel through your body. 
  • Finding the next Lady Gaga: A company called Next Big Sound analyzes social media to predict which emerging musicians are likely to write the next big hits.
  • Food Fight: When nine-year-old Martha Payne of Scotland photographed and ranked her school lunches according to quality, quantity, nutritional value and pieces of hair found on her "food-o-meter," the local government council tried to ban her website. Martha's millions of supporters took to Twitter and Facebook forcing the council to reverse its decision. Martha used her newfound fame to raise $185,000 from her followers to provide meals to children in 16 countries.
  • Sensing Earthquakes: In Taiwan, students at the Lanyang Girls High School are among the thousands of people in 67 countries participating in the crowdsourced Quake-Catcher Network, which uses the accelerometers in every day laptops to detect and provide advance warnings of earthquakes.

A supplementary activity kit for educators will be available to teachers on This kit incorporates activities that employ statistics, geography, social sciences and other relevant coursework to help teachers use "Data Detectives" as a teaching tool. 

"The goal of Data Detectives is to spark the imagination of students around the globe by making them think about new technologies that will impact humanity in ways similar to language and art," said Rick Smolan, CEO, of Against All Odds Productions. "We want to expose the personal side of a complex topic to demonstrate just how different the lives of today's youth will be in comparison to their parents."

The Human Face of Big Data project is based on the premise that the real-time visualization of data collected by satellites, and by billions of sensors, RFID tags, and GPS-enabled cameras and smartphones around the world, is enabling humanity to sense, measure, understand and affect aspects of our existence in ways our ancestors could never have imagined.

"The Human Face of Big Data and the associated "Data Detectives" initiatives illustrate EMC's belief that an interconnected world that provides the collection, analysis and visualization of data is empowering the human race across geographic, economic and cultural barriers," said EMC Executive Vice President, Product Operations and Marketing Jeremy Burton. "The Data Detectives initiative builds on EMC's long-standing commitment to improving science, technology, engineering and math education in our children's schools."

The Human Face of Big Data is a global crowdsourced project that also includes:

  • A Large-Format Illustrated Book

On December 4, 2012, "The Human Face of Big Data" book will be unveiled and delivered via FedEx, the Official Shipping Sponsor to 10,000 of the world's most influential people, including world leaders, Fortune 500 CEOs, and Nobel laureates across 30 countries. The book will feature a fascinating array of more than 200 photographs, compelling essays from noted writers and dramatic infographics from renowned designer Nigel Holmes. An interactive iPad app will be released at the same time. 

  • A Smartphone App

Launched in September, The Human Face of Big Data app engages people in a series of activities using the sensors in their phones, as well as enabling them to compare their responses to thought-provoking questions with others around the globe to derive answers to questions about our most personal beliefs about life. As of November 8th more than three million questions have been answered by participants in over 49 countries. A full data analysis will be released in late November 2012. Download the app for iOS orAndroid.

About the Sponsors

The "Data Detectives" component of "The Human Face of Big Data" project is editorially independent and is made possible through the generous support of EMC Corporation, which serves as the primary sponsor. Supporting sponsorship comes from Cisco Systems, FedEx, VMWare, Tableau and Originate.

Visualizations for the Data Detectives website were developed by R/GA.

EMC's primary interest and expertise lies in advancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education to build a highly trained and innovative workforce for the future. EMC's efforts are focused on strengthening educational systems and raising standards locally and globally.

Cisco is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. As data grows bigger, our planet continues to shrink, connecting people and things in new and innovative ways. It's an exciting time of possibilities and change for the entire world. These changes are happening day by day, minute by minute, as the amount of internet traffic traversing the network continues to grow, providing infinite paths to improve our world. From solving global health issues to predicting natural disasters to improving education, the human potential is both daunting and amazing. At Cisco we understand the potential of data and we have a passion for creating intelligent solutions to collect, manage, and evaluate data at the speed of human communications. Cisco is proud to be a sponsor of The Human Face of Big Data.
More at

The Cisco Networking Academy, with 10,000 academies in 165 countries, trains over a million students each year with the skills needed to build, design, manage, and secure computer networks. The academy helps students prepare for industry-recognized certifications and entry-level information and communication technology (ICT) careers in virtually every type of industry. To learn more visit

"In addition to learning about information technology, Cisco Networking Academy students develop career skills in problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking.  Cisco demonstrates the real-life use of data management to automate classroom administration, improve student enrollment, and support instructor training to enhance the learning experience for students." Michael Yutrzenka, Senior Director, Corporate Affairs, Cisco.

FedEx is proud to be the Official Shipping Sponsor of The Human Face of Big Data. In 1978, FedEx chairman and CEO Fred Smith said, "The information about the package is just as important as the package itself." Today, FedEx provides customers with access to near real-time information that has enabled new supply chain models and efficiencies. This unprecedented access to information is connecting customers around the world to economic markets and communities. FedEx, the company that revolutionized global business practices by providing next-business-day delivery service, leveraged the reach, strength, and reliability of its network to ship 10,000 individual copies of The Human Face of Big Data photo book around the globe. From the earliest commercial handhelds in 1980, to equipping vehicles with radio computers in 1984, to making package tracking available on the world's first transactional website in 1994, FedEx has always sought the edge of innovation.

For More Information

To learn more about The Human Face of Big Data and its Student Data Detectives initiative, teachers, students and parents should visit the program Web site at  To receive more information regarding the EMC Learning Solutions commitment, interested school administrators should go to

About The Human Face of Big Data

"The Human Face of Big Data" is a globally crowdsourced media project focusing on the new ability to collect, analyze, triangulate and visualize vast amounts of data in real time. The project includes a free mobile app, Mission Control briefing events, a student Data Detectives initiative, a large-format book with more than 200 photographs along with essays and infographics, an iPad app and a documentary.

 "The Human Face of Big Data" is produced by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt, co-founders of Against All Odds Productions, which specializes in the design and execution of large-scale, crowdsourced global projects that combine compelling storytelling with state-of-the-art  technology. To produce these projects, Smolan and Erwitt invite teams of leading journalists and photographers (plus members of the general public) to come together to focus on emerging topics such as the global water crisis, the effect of the Internet on civilization or how the human race is learning to heal itself. Their projects result in bestselling illustrated books, TV specials, apps, exhibits and hundreds of millions of media impressions. Fortune magazine described Against All Odds Productions as "one of the coolest companies in America

To learn more, go to  and follow the project on Twitter and Facebook.

About TED

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world's leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. Their talks are then made available, free, at TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The annual TED Conference takes place each spring in Long Beach, California, along with the TEDActive simulcast in Palm Springs; the annual TEDGlobal conference is held each summer in Edinburgh, Scotland.

TED's media initiatives include, where new TEDTalks are posted daily, the recently launched TED-Ed platform for students and educators, the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as the ability for any TEDTalk to be translated by volunteers worldwide, and TEDBooks, short e-books by speakers that elaborate on a single idea originally presented on TED's stage. TED has established the annual TED Prize, where exceptional individuals with a wish to change the world are given the opportunity to put their wishes into action; TEDx, which offers individuals or groups a way to host local, self-organized events around the world, and the TED Fellows program, helping world-changing innovators from around the globe to become part of the TED community and, with its help, amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities. Follow TED on Twitter or on Facebook.

EMC is a registered trademark of EMC Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

SOURCE Against All Odds Productions

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