Daily question: The power to know

October 18 is Statistics Day in Japan:


So, it’s not surprising to learn that:

At 2:13 pm on Wednesday in Japan, 24,497 people are walking the dog and all of them have jobs

In fact, for those of us who live in a country that cannot even properly count its presidential election votes, the level of granularity of Japanese statistics is truly fascinating, as brought to us by Soma who lives, strangely enough, in Brooklyn, NY:

Let’s jump right into this: Japan has the absolute best census in the history of my known world. Not only does it include normal things like age, sex, and the height of each of your pets, but it also legitimizes the gossipy question of What Are You Doing Right Now? Japan slapped a bunch of people with notebooks and a sacred Numbers Mission: keep a log of what you do during the day, in fifteen minute intervals. And those people did!

Interactive visualization of the resulting stats is addictive:


What applications can you think of if the same statistically significant number of people were equipped (not with notebooks but) iPhones+GPS and the data could be visualized in real time?

3 thoughts on “Daily question: The power to know

  1. Ziad
    1. Advance polls only collect the ballots; counting begins after the polls close on Election Day. Unless fraud is involved.
    2. Don’t visit the ITMS App Store and look for an app named “Obama”.


  2. Beyond data collection and tracking, but actually influencing the results.

    Politicians create an iPhone app for their supporters, and then watch them go to the polls. Send them an inducement if they are not going, or to remind them on the way to the poll.

    With the amount of advance voting happening now, one could actually use the previous day’s feedback to get better and better at this before the BIg Day.

    It could even open up a new round of dirty tricks, with people hacking into each other’s supporter lists and sending them confusing messages.

    Sigh Biannual elections in Canada, where we have our 3rd minority government, and the endless campaign in the US, have made me cynical.

  3. Something in healthcare. You could watch in realtime how a flue is spreading across a city or country. Doctors could also ask their patients to give a daily answer to: “How do you feel today?”, so they can see if a treatment is having an effect. There are tremendous opportunities with this. A University in Sweden developed an application for the Palm, where they remotely tested their patients response time and co-ordination. Thereby, they could see if the patient needed a change in treatment (it was Parkinson or something).

Comments are closed.