The Magical Power of Data

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When I was at the Queen’s University Conference on Business and Technology event last weekend, data was on my mind. I mean, let’s be honest—I work with tech companies, so data is always on my mind. But for the first time I saw data in a much more simplified way. Listening to Emma Warrillow from Data Insight Group speak about data was not only provocative, but inspiring.

What happens when you use data to amplify 40 square miles in Florida? You get a magical experience. You get Disney World. “Disney is basically a giant computer streaming real time data” Warrillow states in her talk.

When I got home from the conference, I asked my 7 year old son to think about our last trip to Disney, I was not trying to burst his bubble about magic because I believe in magic. But what I did was explain to him how data could create magic. Our discussion turned on how in reality one type of magic was being created–data science in action. The questions that came pouring out from the discussion made me positive that he really understood: "How did people know my name?" "How did our bracelets let us pay for all those snacks?" ”How did they have WiFi in every single part of the park?”

Sure, I didn’t mention details to him like how Disney had to pick and train 60,000 employees on how the magic band works and how to work with the data it provides. And I didn’t mention that electronically re-keying 78,000 rooms across the Disney properties was probably a serious undertaking. But then again, I haven’t explained the birds and the bees to him in too much detail yet either.

But now when he complains because he doesn’t get to use my Google Maps app when we travel on the subway, we both know the experience could have been much more magical. When he turns to me and says “not having WiFi in the subway tunnel is stupid,” I don’t correct him. Because, well…I do agree with him.

Data can be really scary. When it comes to children, we might not think of Big Data as a kid-friendly topic, but the power of data can produce a kind of magic, which even a kid can understand.


If you want to talk about data and tech problems than feel free to reach out to me michelene.maguire@gmail.com. Trust me, I'm not a data scientist. Ha! I will never try to be one. But what I am good at is taking super complex ideas and simplifying them into clean marketing language. 

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