The difference between Data, Information and Intelligence

How can we harness the power of data, information and intelligence to explore the world together, solve the mysteries of the unknown and cope with the uncertainties of life?

Data are raw, independent, indisputable facts. Take for example the temperature of the roof of San Francisco's City Hall at 12:56 a.m., or the amount of sunlight measured from a specific solar telescope. These data are free of any subjectivity, directly reflecting reality, and have a high degree of credibility.

Information is a clever combination of data that can answer all kinds of questions in life. For example, whether a country's economy is above average or how many of our customers do business in the European region.

Intelligence is the combination of information into a compelling narrative that reveals the back story and guides decisions. For example, you might hear intelligence that Iran is about to launch an invasion of Iraq, so now is an urgent time to divert critical resources. Or, perhaps a politician in Northern California seems intent on voting against marijuana legislation, so now may not be the ideal time to enter the industry.

Intelligence is key when decision makers are faced with uncertainty, and uncertainty is usually always present.

Intelligence is a powerful support for decision-making, based on a deep understanding of reality and accurate predictions of the future, providing invaluable guidance for taking action to improve outcomes.

We use information to build the understanding of the world necessary to create stories. And data, the very input of information, provides rich fodder for our imagination.

Examples of data, information and intelligence

Imagine a slice of a city in Canada that has been turned into a brutal battlefield by war. There, some brave troops are patrolling the city center on a mission to find warlords who hold resistance forces in their grasp through the intricate streets.

Meanwhile, Canada's military leaders eagerly seek secret information that will unveil this hidden enemy.

· Data: At 7:07 p.m., a mysterious man quietly crosses the busy street at the intersection of Montego and Tegola.

· Data: The same man left a nearby building with a briefcase in his hand.

· Data: An anonymous caller came in and said the Warlord was within 3 blocks.

· Information: 37% increase in encrypted radio traffic compared to 2 hours ago.

· Information: Some locals who support the rebels have begun to leave the area.

· Intelligence: Due to this warlord's preference for suitcase bombs, and the fact that this type of pattern has been seen in previous attacks, it is likely that another attack will occur in the next few hours.

· Intelligence: Therefore, the police should be notified and we should have all of our VIPs leave the area immediately.

Data aggregates into information, yet even then, analysts are still needed to distill valuable data intelligence from the information.

It is also important to note that intelligence can be wrong. Just because the pattern has occurred in the past does not mean it will repeat itself, and vice versa, which is also something to be aware of.

In Summary:

Data are individual observations.

Information is a collection of useful data.

Intelligence combines information to form predictive narratives that lead to better decisions.