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Use automated data collection to stay ahead of the competition

Discover reasons for automating data collection and a step-by-step guide to automated data collection at no cost.

How To
January 26, 2021
Use automated data collection to stay ahead of the competition
Discover reasons for automating data collection and a step-by-step guide to automated data collection at no cost.

The world produces more data than it can consume. Every minute, we watch more than 5 million videos and send over 200 million messages and emails. You read that right. Every. Single. Minute.

Companies that want to tap into data-driven decision-making to dominate their competition need to collect the vast amounts of data produced and extract valuable insights using data analysis.

But data collection can be extremely challenging.

For one, the average company today produces customer data across a myriad of platforms. Whether it’s advertising software used to market to customers (Facebook ads, Google ads, Linkedin ads, Bing ads, etc.), ERP software for streamlining production, CRM software used to track sales, email software for tracking communication, or other third-party apps for operationalizing business operations - companies have customer data dispersed across multiple platforms. Keeping track of all of the differences and working on extracting data can be extremely time-consuming.

Smart companies understand that data collection is a means to an end, and they automate data capture to accelerate their time to insights.

1. What exactly is automated data collection?

Automated data collection is the extraction of raw data from its source without human intervention. We rely on technology to do the extraction for us.

Automated data collection software (also known as Automatic Identification and Data Collection, or AIDC for short) relies on advanced engineering and machine learning to correctly identify the raw data and extract it automatically, speeding up the time it takes to collect data.

There are multiple examples of how technology has accelerated data capturing.

1.1 What technologies can you use to automate data collection?

One of the first examples of data capture systems were barcode scanners. Scanning bar codes sped up item identification and processing. Remember cash registers? Each product had to be entered manually by employees. Another example would be supply chains, where passing an item from one level of the chain to the next meant filling in a ridiculous amount of paperwork. 

But the world has moved beyond data collection devices (such as barcode scanners or RFID readers) into fully automated data collection systems. 

Nowadays, the average company can benefit from automatic data capture platforms, which take all of a company’s data sources (advertising software, CRMs, ERPs, emails, accounting software, etc.) and extract valuable data without the need for a programmer to do the coding.

1.2 How do automated data collection platforms work?

Automated data collection platforms work by abstracting away the inner workings of your ETL data pipeline.

What is an ETL data pipeline?

It’s the data engineering foundation and code, which extracts or collects data from its raw sources, transforms data or cleans it in a form that is ready for analysis, and loads the data into a database or data warehouse where it’s safely stored until you need it.

The automated data collection platform builds applications which automate the ‘extract’ portion of the ETL. 

For the end user, this is a straightforward process:

  1. Within the platform, connect your data sources with the data collection application. This is as simple as drag-and-dropping GUI elements or clicking a button, which automatically connects, let’s say, your Facebook Ad account with the data platform.
  2. Set a schedule for when you want the extraction to happen. For example, schedule the download of performance metrics of Facebook ads to take place every Monday before your board meeting.
  3. Sit back, let the platform do the hard work for you, and enjoy being automatically served fresh data!

2. The benefits of automated data collection platforms

Automated data collection platforms offer multiple benefits to companies:

  1. Lower human error rate. Manual data entry is always prone to error. Mistyping a field entry, entering the same information twice, missing some data out of the millions of rows that need to be filled out, and other mistakes that make humans, well, human. “To err is human'', says the adage, but to rely on software is divine. The software performs menial tasks quickly and consistently, thus avoiding mistyping, double-entry, and missed entry errors.
  2. Higher data quality. Lower error rates mean that the data quality you have on hand is going to be higher. This is crucial for improving the quality of decision-making. If your data is wrong, it will give you a false sense of confidence and send you off in the wrong direction. 
  3. Freed-up operational time. When your data engineers and data architects no longer need to write the code themselves to extract data, it frees up their time for more revenue-generating activities.
  4. Lower maintenance costs. Incoming sources of data are always changing. It could be APIs changing their versions, sources altering their endpoints, or a myriad of small alterations in between. This is expected. The third-party apps that you use are constantly evolving to adapt to changes in customer behavior. But what it means for you - if you build your own data collector code - is that you’ll spend a lot of time correcting that code. When you opt for an automated data collection platform, you spend less time maintaining your data pipelines and more time getting valuable insights out of them.

3. How can Keboola help you to accelerate and automate data collection?

Keboola is an all-in-one data operations platform that helps you to automate your data operations end-to-end.

What does this mean?

It means that Keboola was built to automate your ETL pipeline (the extraction, transformation, and loading of your data), as well as other aspects of your data pipeline, such as:

  1. Monitoring your pipeline 
  2. Establishing your data governance protocols and regulatory compliance
  3. Collaborating and sharing data across people and departments
  4. Productizing your data with machine learning and artificial intelligence
  5. and many other use cases.

But Keboola truly shines in automated data collection.

With over 130 extractor components, you can automatically collect data from the most popular third-party apps and tools:

  1. Collect data from your digital advertising platforms (Facebook ads, Google ads, Bing ads, Linkedin ads, etc.).
  2. Extract social media data such as likes, shares, and follows across multiple platforms (e.g. Instagram, Facebook Pages, Twitter, Snapchat) and keep track of your audience.
  3. Capture data about your email campaigns and conversations with ease - just use Keboola’s devoted extractor components for Sendinblue, Mailgun, Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, and more.
  4. Take control of your sales, support, and CRM data by moving it from the platform to your in-house database, which can be done using the Pipedrive component, the Hubspot extractor, Intercom, and many more. Take it a step further and use B!Q Deal Predictions to automate prospect and lead qualification using machine learning. 
  5. Use the storage extractors (for example, AWS S3, or Azure Blob Storage, or MySQL, or… you get the idea), to automatically collect data from databases to speed up data enrichment and analysis.
  6. … and there’s plenty more where that came from (130 actually). 

3.1. A step-by-step guide to automated data collection

Automating data collection can be done in just a few clicks and without any costs. Start by creating a free account. Every new account receives 300 free minutes each month for completing simple tasks like data collection.

Step 1: Go to Extractors

Now that you’ve created a free account, search for components and click on extractors.

project screenshot top bar with components

Step 2: Browse the library

We have more than 130 extractors listed in a searchable library. Simply scroll down or use the search bar to find the extractor needed. In our case, we searched for extractors for Google products.

Step 3: Click on the extractor and authorize its access

Let’s go with Google Analytics, for example. Click on the icon and create a new configuration. In this view you can also find additional information and documentation related with the extractor.

Then proceed to authorize account via two simple clicks.

extractor with a green button authorize accont
Authorization, step 1
authorize with google sign in
Authorization, step 2

Step 4: Automate data collection

In the right-side menu, there’s an option to automate data collection. Simply click on it, decide on a time frame and you’re good to go!

right side menu with automation option

But what happens if you use a tool that’s not covered by Keboola’s ecosystem of automated data collection apps/extractors? We’ve got you covered. 

With the Generic extractor, you can build your own data collection app for any RESTful API. Just dust off your coding keyboard and get typing! In fact, clients have set up their own extractors in a fraction of the time that it usually takes to build their own data pipelines.

Try it for yourself. Keboola offers a no-questions-asked, always-free tier, so you can play around and tap into the potential of automated data collection. 

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