The data melting pot 

When I think of a melting pot, I think of cooking. Cooking is a wonderful activity, I call it an essential pastime. Place onion, tomatoes, oregano, beef, water, pepper and salt in a pot and put it on the stove for a couple of hours, and you end up with a beautiful ragu, or chunky beef sauce that when ladled on top of pasta is the most wonderful comfort food in winter.

The point you ask?

Well it’s a similar outcome when we look to gain insight through data… and sometimes that leads to new discoveries, insights or innovation.

Take for example public transport data. By itself, it’s reasonably interesting. But if you add postcode or location data to it, you then get to see the concentration of public transport usage and perhaps which areas require more or fewer services. Somewhat useful.

Add weather pattern data to this, you can see that fewer people use public transport in Brisbane when it rains. An annoying discovery.

If you then add traffic data, you can see that most people opt to drive their car on rainy days, which leads to increased traffic congestion, road accidents and a potential spike in healthcare services needed to treat injuries. So on rainy days, we need to have more traffic response units, we need to invoke any traffic management systems early, and we may need to roster on more medical staff. Helpful.

Then finally, if you add parking data to this melting pot, you can see that everyone who decides to drive on a rainy day, and not catch the train, now needs a place to park. If you are a Council, that means more parking inspectors for possibly more tickets. If you are a carpark operator, that means excellent utilisation, desperate people late for work and willing to pay, and the turnover of a tidy profit. A potentially rewarding find with an economic impact, albeit a loose one.

I’m sure if you added fast food data in there too, you may see that these people who take their car when it rains get stuck in traffic because of an accident, take longer to get home after paying a premium for parking and then decide “what the heck, we’re having pizza for dinner!” And there I’ve linked this post back to food again.

By adding all of these data ‘ingredients’, we’re able to see things we didn’t know before or perhaps anecdotally knew but didn’t have enough evidence to base a decision on or allocate resources to. Operating on a hunch can sometimes pay off. But operating on fact will always pay off. As will a nice ragu. Or braving the rain and catching the train. Although on that one I make no promises.

Julie Kilner

Consulting Manager