When the Data is More Valuable Than the Device

water view When the Data is More Valuable Than the Device

I came across this Wall Street Journal article last week which included a blurb about a company, Liquid Robotics Inc. They make unmanned water vehicles with some pretty impressive technology.

By continuously harvesting energy from the environment, Wave Gliders are able to travel long distances, hold station, and monitor vast areas without ever needing to refuel. A unique two-part architecture and wing system directly converts wave motion into thrust, and solar panels provide electricity for sensor payloads. This means that Wave Gliders can travel to a distant area, collect data, and return for maintenance without ever requiring a ship to leave port.

Others have also been impressed by the company and they recently raised $22 million. This news is fairly interesting to a VC geek like me, but the thing that really caught my attention was their recent pivot. At Infochimps our data suppliers typically fall into one of two categories: 1) companies in the business of selling data (eg AggData), and 2) companies in the business of selling something else, but that want to monetize their data byproduct (see: Twitter). Liquid Robotics is an example of the latter. In the course of making unmanned water vehicles, they recognized their data byproduct was more valuable than what they were selling.

73955v1 max 250x250 When the Data is More Valuable Than the DeviceLiquid Robotics is sending a fleet of four of their unmanned water vehicles across the Pacific (PacX) to collect over 2 million data points on salinity and water temperature, waves, weather, fluorescence, and dissolved oxygen. They are making this data accessible to scientists, but I am sure there are many companies chomping at the bit for it.

Many companies use their own data to gain insight into their operations, but more and more companies are using third party data to go way beyond that. Quentin Hardy posits in this New York Times article whether we’re in a big data bubble. He says yes, but I say no. The big data stack is maturing and the tools available enable companies to ask myriad questions to both their own data, as well as data from third parties. This marriage provides additional insight and begets many more questions.

As more and more companies recognize the value of their data and seek to monetize it, and as more and more companies use third party data to gain insight, Infochimps will be there to provide liquidity in the emerging data marketplace.

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