No small potatoes

I was scrolling through LinkedIn this morning (why this activity feels productive, I’m not sure*, but kudos to LinkedIn for achieving that) and ran across an article about a new partnership between Oracle and NC State that will apply big data to solving “grand challenges” in agriculture and other industries. How attractive is the phrase “grand challenges?” I had to know more.

In brief, Oracle will work with the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to launch a big data project focusing on…sweet potatoes. If you think that sounds strange, read the part about how artificial intelligence and machine learning will also play a part in this.

Back when I worked as a content creator for a science museum, one of my challenges was translating obscure, seemingly insignificant scientific research into information that would interest the average person. For instance, there are scientists spending years studying exactly what makes lizards’ feet so sticky. Why does this matter? Because the research leads to the creation of better adhesives, which has implications for manufacturers and consumers. Point being, sweet potatoes aren’t really the point.

A few years ago, I wrote an article about how emerging tech trends, including big data, would affect the field service space. At the time, everyone was certain big data would have an impact, but no one could say exactly how. This is a growing pain of almost any new technology. (“Sure, this internet thing is a great idea, but what can you do with it?”) What Oracle and NC State are doing is exploratory and highly specific, but if what they learn is important enough, it surely won’t end with sweet potatoes.

Read more here.

*Actually there is a reason, and it has to do with random reinforcement and creating desire. If you’re a product manager you probably understand this pretty well!