Big Data, analytics and the IoT – The force is strong!

By Robin Lipscomb, - Future WorkplaceInsight

A cacophony of data, a wall of zeros and ones, if you will. We’re in the midst of a digital revolution where the terabytes of non-persistent data libraries that are regularly produced by enterprises, sensors, engines, utility companies, mobile phones, PCs and tablets (you get my drift) are meeting the Exabyte’s of persistent and stored physical and virtual data libraries.

They’re now being harnessed and partially examined (think Fujitsu K5) in the digital world to open up new and exciting uses for this data.

Managing the data torrent

It’s an indisputable fact that globally we are now producing unprecedented amounts of data. As an example of this, think about a single jet aircraft.

It produces on average 10 terabytes of in-flight data per engine over a 30 minute period – everything on that jet is network enabled and connected for analysis. From the landing gears to the flaps, the customer data and of course the passenger manifests; this is  all data that provides valuable insight into the aeronautic industry that makes the flight better, safer, more reliable and pleasurable for the passengers.

And this is occurring across all industries, in every city, across the globe.

I remember a few years back reading the insightful book, The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman and thinking about the premise contained within. As the world metaphorically shrinks and the wall comes down (Berlin), the Windows will go up (Windows) and the net will close in (Interweb!) and ingest us!

I perhaps naively took away from the book that things would become much better for the end user and perhaps myself as an IT professional as we navigated these new choppy yet heralded waters and things would become far easier to rationalize and visualize from an ICT perspective.

Whilst mainframe, GRID and SOA inspired enterprise computing is so last century (perhaps not!) the latest cognitive, human-centric stuff that is now personalized, contextual and Windows (Mac OS, Android and Microsoft!) oriented by default , well that is the panacea that we all now desire, right?

The hyperconnected world means more devices, and more data

However, as we are all now painfully aware, more and more humans from across the globe are connecting their IP-based devices (in many circumstances a whopping five per person) to networks and smarter ecosystems.

Cities are adopting more and more RFID based sensors into their mainstream budgets and (M2M) infrastructure thinking (watch out for autonomous vehicles sooner than you think).  We are seeing the full effect of Moore’s law from a big data perspective as perhaps never anticipated before.

It’s clearly affecting our ability to manage the data too as without remediation work, our datacenters will start to burst at the seams. As a result we will and are seeing more and more new data centres springing up across the UK (Microsoft and Amazon being the latest) and finally software defined virtual hybrid data centres are now taking a major step forward. I believe that is called progress!

So how do we manage all this data (tools and orchestration), where do we store it (data warehouses), how do we access it (Hybrid IT), what security classifications do we need (impact levels in old money), how is data handled and formatted in the enterprise into useable formats?

Whilst we think about it what effect will we see in the consumer space too, who do we trust with our data and what data are we, as individuals feel comfortable with being amongst some of the unscrupulous and malicious folks that hide in the shadows of the Interweb and aptly named darknet?

How can the IT industry tackle the challenges ahead?

As an IT professional, I seem to think more and more about such questions and as an architect, when I look at the next generational blueprints that we need to have in place in order to address such challenges I reflect on the future needs of customers and consumers data within this new model.

Social bias wise, I try to keep an open mind in everything I do. In fact like many others in this world of ICT, I listen to the various UK government impact groups like Catapult talking about their future looking think-tanks (research, industry and academia) and I ingest whitepapers by the tonne (well perhaps by the megabyte).

I visit interesting and insightful seminars such as Future Decoded where we see the thirst and passion for all things autonomic, cognitive and human centric. I witness the new prototypes being proffered by smart start-ups; how does the aptly named mood enhancing hoody sound or the robotic barman that will mix your favorite cocktail with no fuss and no inane chatter.

I mention this because all of these smart systems, jackets, sensors and pseudo robotic individuals create streams and streams of data that interact and intersect our digital world. And when coupled with mobile devices and wearables they attempt to make our overly complex 21st century lives simpler and easier to prosecute.

Of the subject of the robotic barman, one of my team recently asked me if humans are becoming obsolete in the new world. Not quite. I actually believe we’re preserving our futures by having technological bots complete the mundane tasks that assist and prolong our daily lives!

Although at this point, I find myself thinking about the film Wall-E and wondering if in time we too will lose the use of our legs through non-use on the space ships cruising the deep space continuum…

True mastery of data will unlock real value – and huge societal benefits

The point is, as a race, we have many network connected productivity toys producing so much data that is theoretically available to us. But I’m not sure that we are actually mining the information correctly yet or, for that matter, in the most appropriate manner.

We appear in some quarters to be fumbling around in the dark and this needs to change! Some data, like an apple or banana is perishable in nature and needs to be consumed in the moment (real time analytics) or it becomes outdated, mouldy and perhaps worthless.

Therefore, when contemplating the next steps as an enterprise thought leader, when I am looking for the next big thing I ask a few simple questions.

Where is the gold? How can we mine the gold (nuggets of data) that we have at our disposal to open up new routes to market for our customers? and how we can make them more successful in their daily lives?

The answer I believe is firmly based in the analytical study and trend analysis algorithms that we must employ in order to spot real time opportunities and start to predict the location and nature of the ‘gold’ based on an aggregation of various and wide ranging data sources that will be required to present the right categorization of services to the end user.

Now, if we can get that bit right, perhaps the intelligent shrinking world is actually a possibility as we embrace the digital and cognitive age. Who knows? Perhaps one day soon, I will be sitting in a bar talking to people with a large G&T in my hand served by my very own R2 or C3PO unit!

To learn more about Windows 10, see our previous blog post here. Click here for the next blog post in the series that looks at Windows 10 in the financial services sector. 

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