# Exploring the Value of Data Part I

A Journey Through the Wilderness

"The universe is wider than our views of it."
— Henry David Thoreau

Data is a powerful tool for conveying ideas, just as words can tell a story or art can depict the world. Splunk is software that helps people understand and make sense of their data.

This data story begins at the Dripping Springs trailhead in the Organ Mountains in Southern New Mexico, which recently became a protected national monument. Before setting out on my hike, I used my phone to check the weather forecast and made sure to pack my rain jacket. As I started my hike, I wore my Apple Watch, which tracked my GPS location, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and other telemetry. My phone and watch provided me with real-time information about the weather and my location as I hiked. When it began to rain, I consulted my phone's weather radar app and decided to continue based on the information it provided and my own observations.

The desert smells wonderful when it rains. The hot ground is cooled as rain drops evaporate. The hike was enjoyable, and my trail app showed me that I had traveled a total distance of 4.95 miles in 2.5 hours, climbed 62 flights of stairs, and burned 1440 calories. It also recorded my heart rate and oxygen levels at 5-minute intervals throughout the hike. This is just one example of the vast amount of data that can be generated and consumed in a single activity.

All of the devices I had with me, including my phone, smartwatch, headphones, and even my AirPods, were capable of generating and streaming data. Two of these devices, my phone and watch, were also connected to cellular networks and had GPS capabilities. These devices provided me with valuable information when I needed it and also captured my personal biometric data, giving me insights into how my body responded to the hike. Let's look at a few more examples of how data and insights can be useful. Some examples of data that were valuable to me include:

  • Weather data: This was useful to me before and during my hike, but would not be valuable to me a week after the hike.
  • Location information: This was useful to me in real-time to show my exact location on a map and also valuable to me after the hike so I could look back at where I had previously hiked.
  • Health information: This is valuable to me when aggregated with other data, as it allows me to see trends over time and track my fitness metrics.
  • Geolocation information embedded in photos: This will be valuable to me when I want to filter my photos by location.

It's important to note that not all data is valuable after the fact. In my case, an incredible amount of data was generated, collected, and analyzed during my hike, and this data was valuable to different people and at different times. For example, the data collected by my devices was useful to me when I wanted to track my fitness or explore my hiking routes, but it might not be as valuable to someone else.

It's also worth considering that even when our devices are turned off, data is still being generated. The absence of data can be a data point in itself. For example, a cellular provider might be interested in knowing when 1% or more of all connected cell phones disconnect and stop sending data.

At the center of all this is me, the consumer of insights and the generator of data through my use of devices. As I use these devices for different activities and tasks, I create patterns and routines that are unique to me, and the way I navigate digital spaces becomes a data point in itself. Ultimately, I believe that data is evidence of our relationship with machines.

"Maybe stories are just data with a soul."
— Brené Brown Research Professor and Author