Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Have you got big data in your underwear?

Apparently, women's breasts aren't all the same. (Who knew?) True+Co. uses an algorithm based on customer feedback to recommend comfortable and flattering bras for its customers. A visitor to the website completes a questionnaire, and the website recommends some suitable bras. If the customer orders the bra, she then completes another questionnaire providing feedback on comfort and appearance. To date, over a million women have completed the questionnaire, providing 15 million data points.

@tetradian reckoned this is a great example of #bizmodel #bigdata for mass-uniqueness. But I didn't see this example the same way: I don't see anything here that turns Mass Customization into what Tom likes to call Mass Uniqueness.

Tom's favourite example of "mass uniqueness" is Picasso. I bet the algorithm couldn't find a bra for the breasts of Picasso's Demoiselles (NSFW).
Breasts of Picasso’s Demoiselle (NSFW)…

A single questionnaire, even from a million women, doesn't get into the big data league. Maybe it would when they start analysing pictures and videos of customer breasts, rather than relying on a simple questionnaire.

Or if the company were to fit sensors to its underwear, monitoring stretch during a range of activities, collecting millions of data points every minute via the Internet of Things.

Do you think I'm joking? Microsoft is working on a Smart Bra, which will monitor the mood of the wearer and detect stress. The Daily Mail suggests that this will help women to lose weight.

To stop women reaching for the cookie jar when things hit a low, Microsoft's new prototype bra predicts when the wearer is likely to comfort eat and warns against it. The software company's high-tech undergarment features sensors in the cup pockets and side panels that detect changes in heart rate, skin temperature and stress levels - apparent precursors to overeating. All of the data is then streamed via Bluetooth to a smartphone app providing real-time mood-triggered eating alerts.

Now that's what I call big data. Scary, huh?

Jillian Goodman, Cup Size Isn’t Everything (Fast Company, October 2014)

Tom Graves, On Mass Uniqueness (23 May 2014)

April Joyner, Big Data: Coming Soon to Your Bra? (Fast Forward, 6 September 2014)

Hayley Krischer, The underappreciated artistry of the professional bra fitter (Guardian 4 June 2015)

Sadie Whitelocks, Supporting your body in more ways than one! The high-tech bra designed to stop women from comfort eating (Daily Mail, 28 November 2013)

Microsoft working on a smart bra to measure mood (BBC News, 3 December 2013)

See also Towards the Internet of Underthings (November 2015), Weaving in three dimensions (November 2015), On the Ethics of Technologically Mediated Nudge (May 2019)

Link added 16 July 2020

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