The road less traveled has always been a little stranger and trust me, alternative data is a little strange. Buckle-up your seatbelts, it’s going to be a wild ride.
Data has always been a hot commodity. The digital world has made it easier than ever for investors to get their hands on all kinds of data. The problem is, if one person can gain access to a data set then nearly everyone else can too. So, how are investors supposed to get an edge over their competitors and make the best decisions in their power? Please welcome, alternative data to the stage.
First of all, what the heck is alternative data? According to alternativedata.org, it refers to “data used by investors to evaluate a company or investment that is not within their traditional data sources.” Alternative data is the road less traveled. It offers investors a way to add new and unique variables to the mix.
This data can be anything from private aircraft surveillance to satellite images of parking lots. Every bit of data that investors can gather to determine their next course of action has value. It gets wild, y’all.
In the oil and gas industry, one company uses helicopters decked out with infrared beams to estimate the amount of oil in storage tanks. It may sound like something out of a silly movie, but it’s actually quite clever.
So, is alternative data just an industry fad? Probably not, but what qualifies as this kind of data will evolve over time. As certain practices become more mainstream, they will lose that “alternative” edge. Kind of like when the band you’ve been following for years gets a hit song and now, they’re everyone’s favorite band.
What’s already clear is alternative data is not pixie dust. These creative data sets can provide an interesting insight, but it shouldn’t be the sole basis of any decisions. At the end of the day, alt data points are just more variables on the table. It’s best to not get caught up in the sexiness of private jets and satellites.
One thing is for sure, we will be seeing more creative uses of alternative data in the future.