Data IS the Consumer – Interview with Ken Parnham, General Manager Europe, Near

This blog post is part of the Big Data Week Speaker interviews series.  In this article, Ken Parnham, General Manager Europe at Near, shares his thoughts on the AI revolution, how to leverage consumer data, and the major challenges encountered when a city decides to go smart.

  1. What are some of the major challenges when a city decides to go smart?

One of the major challenges is dealing with outdated infrastructure. There needs to be concrete investment from both private organisations and government.

The ecosystem around us is evolving and burgeoning with consumer data. Governments and urban planners could consider leveraging and analysing location data from mobile, wearables and other IoT devices to assess traffic movement – to decide where to widen lanes or install new traffic lights.

Analysing the data gathered can also help to ascertain which areas are likely to be congested at any given time, and much more. Today, many data platforms and products provide real-time location data that allow government and urban planners to prepare for contingencies and attain faster response times. Legislation and government policy should work side by side with commerce and data providers to make more effective decisions that benefit the public.

  1.      How have businesses adapted so far to the impact of Big Data?

Most businesses have accepted the idea that they need to deploy a data-led organisation in one way or another. Real-time data analytics and consumer insights are helping businesses, organizations and enterprises to make many marketing and business decisions. Some of the use cases can be found here. This is a good indication that data is the only way businesses will transact in the future.

  1.      Why is it important for organisations to become data-driven?

Don’t think about your consumers as data; data IS the consumer. If you want to sell better and want to understand your consumers better, then you to need to employ a solid data strategy. By investing in technology that provides access to fresh, accurate data and analytics, organisations, businesses and enterprises can map the entire consumer journey – from tracking engagement on devices to walk-ins and purchases, measure impact, analyse their own consumers and competitor consumers, identify locations to open their next stores and much more. With the increase in explosion of consumer data from various data streams, it becomes imperative for organisations to take the data-driven approach to provide holistic consumer experiences, measure impact and spends.

  1.      What are the challenges encountered when trying to leverage data?

Privacy laws are the biggest challenges, and it is essential that you get this right. And there are some ethical challenges as well. Just because “you can use data, doesn’t always mean you should.”

  1.      How do you see the industry evolving over the next few years?

Richer data-sets and greater information about people. Having said that, I also see a trade-off between consumer data and organisations. I see a model for giving something back to the consumer for using their data points.


  1.      How do you think the new automation wave and self-teaching AIs will impact the world?

Exciting times ahead in this field now that many companies are using machine learning and or AI in one way or another. I see great efficiency resulting because of these technologies. I also believe that although the workforce skill-sets keep changing, the geek will still inherit the earth. These new technologies will make a huge impact on the world by creating many tech job openings, reducing errors, and increasing productivity and efficiency.

  1.      Tell us a bit more about your topic at the BDW 2017 London Conference. Why did you choose this particular subject?

In earlier days, governments had to conduct paper survey or census to measure human population, demographics and other such variables. Similarly, brand marketers had no easy access to consumer data to understand their target audience’s behaviours, interests and offer personalized experiences at the right time, at the right place and in real-time. All these had seemed nearly impossible! But thanks to technology and to our tech-savvy generation, the data is exploding and marketers and governments are now able to make sense of these and put it to better use.

I strongly believe that data platforms with enhanced AI and ML capabilities are making the impossible possible! In my presentation, I will cover how data products are helping marketers analyse the real-world audiences in real time, understand their intent, interests, in the digital and physical world, and map their journeys across devices and places. Most importantly, my session will include Near’s Ambient Data use cases for marketing, businesses and smart-city planning.



Ken is responsible for scaling Near’s business in the region with key partnerships and strategic deals. He is also responsible for driving adoption of Near’s products amongst brands and enterprises for their data-driven decisions.

Prior to Near, Ken was the Managing Director of TrustE, a data privacy management company. He is a data and technology expert with over 20 years of experience in the digital industry. He also held leadership roles at OpenX – where he successfully launched the company’s real-time bidding market place in EMEA – Wanadoo (Orange-France Telecom), and 24/7 Media.

Ken is a self-confessed geek, with a strong passion for all things digital.

Don’t miss Ken’s talk at the upcoming Big Data Week London Conference, on October 13. Get your Early Bird ticket today!



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