Social Unstructured Data Is Not Unusable

Just as certain a fact as stating that many of today's social network sites will be gone in two years is the fact that new social sites—invariably much more niche and focused—will replace them. Hidden in plain sight within the millions of posts in dozens of languages of these huge number of sites is every trend, every individual customer profile and every hint of what customers will buy—and perhaps even their desired price range—that your chain could ever wish for. There's only one problem: There is no simple spreadsheet-friendly way to access that data.

You can read it without limits. But to automate that process and to process the data in a way to get anything meaningful out of it, that's difficult. We are deluged with products and services that are trying to solve problems that hardly anyone has ever experienced. Who will be the first to conquer this one? Many companies—including SAP and Oracle—are trying to figure it out. But they typically try to fall back on algorithms and filters. The software needed is closer to what the CIA and the NSA use to parse billions of phone calls and E-mail messages while trying to figure out plots. It's much closer to artificial intelligence than cryptography. Military satellite technology eventually came to consumers in the form of GPS. How long will it take for AI to visit the local retail chain, where software will peruse the world to find out the best assortment to be displayed tomorrow?