The Century of Data
The 21st century will be the century of data, the new resource to boost the economy, as finance did in the 1900s. Gathering and using data is transforming our lives whether we are at home, travelling, shopping or even receiving healthcare. It is helping us to control our heating bills, receive more relevant online promotions and ensures our cars are kept on the road, with proactive monitoring of components before they fail.
But as the mass of data we’re creating continues to grow, is it at risk of overwhelming businesses or can we use it to our advantage to create meaningful insights? And, as concerns over data privacy increase, should we really be sharing so much of our personal information with organisations?
How much data am I generating?
Ubiquitous connectivity, social media and associated technologies are allowing each of us to create a wealth of digital information, such as written messages – like tweets, texts and emails, pictures and videos. Today, there are billions of connected objects, 4.5 billion smartphones and tablets, as well as 2.5 billion social network users; all of which is having an unprecedented technical and economic impact on society.
For example, today, the average family generates enough data to fill 65 iPhones each year, but this is set to increase fivefold by 2019. To provide a sense of scale of how data generation has increased over time, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years; and, according to Zuckerberg’s Law, we create as much data each year as what has been created since the invention of writing.
Overcome security concerns to unlock the value of data
The Internet of Everything is a ubiquitous communication network of everything: people, processes and locations that enable organisations to capture and effectively manage data from billions of objects. The impact of connecting everything on our quality of life will be measured in terms of the value-add services that will be enabled, but this has to be tempered by considerations of individual privacy.
For example, security issues will have to be addressed if wearable technology is to fulfil its potential to become a fully integrated part of our private and professional lives – with improved gesture-based control and augmented reality experiences as well as the use of contextual data to support user services. Consumers often consider their data privacy to be unreasonably compromised as a consequence of embracing new digital services and processes. And, with a dramatic increase in cyber-attacks, stolen identities and credit card fraud, they’re not wrong to be concerned.
Companies must therefore, identify their critical information assets to rethink protection and security patterns, and on top of this, service providers will need to consider data types, anticipated usage and relevant regulations to keep personal data safe and out of unwanted hands.
Once these aspects are addressed, organisations can start to analyse data to aid decision making and anticipate customer behaviours. Most importantly, prescriptive analytics have the potential to recommend actions to workers and automate industrial processes. And, it will be those businesses than embrace predictive analytics that will remain truly competitive in the century of data. For instance, IBM and Twitter have recently signed a deal to marry IBM’s analytics software with the huge volumes of information generations by Twitter’s user base to gain better insight into how the platform is being used.
With a properly connected network of billions of devices and users, data will be known as the ‘new black gold’, collected and exchanged as part of a whole new Economy of Data. Exciting new business opportunities will emerge, provided that markets are organised by monetising data appropriately. However, profitability can only occur if business partners, harnessing data generated by new services (with the consent of users), are willing to finance the necessary investments so that the right operational and commercial frameworks are established.