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Small, n=me, data

CISE Distinguished Lecture - Deborah Estrin - Cornell NYC Tech

September 19, 2013 2:00 PM  to 
September 19, 2013 3:00 PM
NSF Room 110


Consider a new kind of cloud-based app that would create a picture of an individual's behavior over time by continuously, securely, and privately analyzing the digital traces they generate 24x7 by virtue of the fact that they mediate, or at least accompany, their lives with mobile and other digital technologies. The social networks, search engines, mobile operators, online games, and e-commerce sites that they access every hour of most every day extensively use these digital traces to tailor service offerings and to improve system performance and in some cases to target advertisements. Most of these services do not make these individual traces available to the person who generated them; but they might begin to do so if we identify the market, technical, and social mechanisms that would derive value from these traces.

Our premise is that this broad but highly personalized, data set can be analyzed to draw powerful inferences about an individual, and for that individual. Use of these traces could enhance, and even transform, our experiences as consumers, patients, passengers, customers, family members, as well as users of online media. These traces might fuel apps that offer individuals personalized, data-driven, insights into their habits and habitats. This talk will discuss precedents for small data in mobile health, and the opportunities and challenges of broadening the scope of small data capture, storage, and use.


Deborah Estrin is a Professor of Computer Science at Cornell Tech in New York City ( and a Professor of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is co-founder of the non-profit startup, Open mHealth ( She was previously on faculty at UCLA and Founding Director of the NSF Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS). Estrin is a pioneer in networked sensing, which uses mobile and wireless systems to collect and analyze real time data about the physical world and the people who occupy it. Estrin's current focus is on mobile health (mhealth), leveraging the programmability, proximity, and pervasiveness of mobile devices and the cloud for health management. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. She recently presented at TEDMED about small data:

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Keith Marzullo, (703) 292-8950,

NSF Related Organizations
Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering

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