Analyse anything from sleep patterns to football

Singapore is becoming a leader in data analytics and agencies such as the Economic Development Board have been working to establish this position. Capabilities in this field will create economic value and jobs. Arti Mulchand talks to three people working in the sector.

One does not have to look far to see analytics at play, says Accenture Digital management consultant Terence Lee, pulling up the Noom Walk app on his Android phone to illustrate.

The app tells him he has taken 35,000 steps in the past seven days - not as many as he had hoped. So he has to walk more.

However, the proliferation of apps such as Noom Walk and wearable fitness trackers is doing a lot more than telling people to step up activity levels or cut down on carbohydrates.

Such apps and devices are capturing millions of bytes of data on everything from breakfast trends to sleep patterns.

Take Jawbone UP, an app that tracks activity, diet and sleep.

After northern California experienced its strongest tremor in 25 years on Aug 24, Jawbone put together a chart that showed thousands of its users in the area were woken up at 3.20am by the quake, and even how many of them did not go back to sleep.

"On a broader level, such data could be aggregated to help provide insights into health behaviour," says Mr Lee, who joined Accenture as an analyst in 2011 after earning his degree in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

"This might, for example, help public health agencies to understand how people approach fitness and identify risks, so they can plan better public health campaigns. This is a global trend that we have observed."

Indeed, at the Accenture analytics innovation centre, data is being churned for both private- and public-sector clients, to guide them in making business and policy decisions. Mr Lee joined the centre after it was opened in 2012, in collaboration with the Economic Development Board.

Just for kicks, he tried to use analytics two years ago to give himself an edge in Fantasy Football, a game where users compete by assembling virtual teams whose success is determined by the actual performance of the players on the pitch.

His friends beat him, but he blames the unrefined model that he was using, not the data. His bet, he insists, remains on analytics.

"Models are constantly reviewed and keep getting better; they do work for clients across so many different industries.

"Sometimes, our clients don't even realise what kind of data they have or the insights that can be gleaned from it. Being able to give that to them feels good."

This article was first published on Oct 27, 2014.

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