Beyond Infancy?

The trend over recent years has been for technology services to be provided on an “as a service” (aaS) basis.  The flexibility of an always available, highly and immediately scalable service for which you subscribe on a short term basis with fees directly linked to usage based metric(s) is compelling.  The drive to adopt aaS offerings by consumers and businesses has been one of the signs of our world going digital.    I do recognise that concerns remain for some primarily in relation to data portability and security.  However, we have moved beyond the initial virtualised server offerings to more sophisticated platform and software based services.  Access methods have expanded beyond web browsers on computers to the current world of “apps” from a multiplicity of devices consuming “platform services”.  So all very empowering and exciting but where do we go next?

I am not alone in thinking that the future “aaS” offerings will be shaped by the Internet of Things (IoT).  The services we consume in the near future will be delivered based on many diverse real time data streams.  Data will be drawn from existing stores and combined with data generated by an ever larger set of sensor equipped devices, human centric or automated machine to machine (M2M). The scale of this connected device proliferation is forecast to be vast.  CISCO predict 50 billion connected devices by 2020, Gartner 30 billion.  IDC believe that by the end of 2015 across the globe we will have connected just under 5,000 devices per minute for each of the 365 days.  The data from these devices will be used to enable and inform the digital services that will pervade our lives.

These digital services will be highly personalised, based on real-time analytics and contextual.   The personalisation will be all pervasive and extend beyond data unique to an individual.  Services will constantly learn and tailor themselves to each user or user group based on a vast stream of real-time received and analysed data that is context informed.   It is the contextual aspect that fascinates me the most.   Truly contextual services will be able to anticipate our needs and deliver unique experiences specific to us or defined user communities.   That ability for the digital service to anticipate will come with need for careful design to avoid slipping into being annoyingly intrusive.

The privacy aspects of digital services are complex and fascinating.  They could seriously inhibit how services evolve over the next 5 to 10 years.  Many commentator are alarmed at how lightly many people trade data privacy to access a desirable service.  Some argue that currently services tend to be relatively isolated and so the risk of unexpected data leakage is acceptable.


This would seem to be at best naive to me.  However, I do accept that refusing to accept provider terms relies on there being viable equally alluring alternatives or strong willpower!  The security of the service platforms and volume of connected devices enabling these digital services is also clearly key.  Hence the increasing focus on this aspect of the enabling IoT wave in the last 12 months.  An interesting report published by HP in 2014 looked at 10 connected devices in the market today to enable various smart home services and all failed their security testing.  A similar outcome was reported by the BBC in testing they conducted on various domestic smart devices where their hackers were successful.

If we think the current aaS offerings are flexible and add value then the good news is that we have only begun to see the potential.  Digital services are just leaving the infant stage and moving becoming toddlers.  Any parent will know that this is both an exciting, challenging and at times worrying period as the toddler becomes adept in their new skills.  Learning to walk is one thing, just remember that after that comes running!

The post has been previously published on the Business Value Exchange.
Image via  Shutterstock.

Transformation by any other name?

The world of IT is often a tribal one where people frequently have strongly held views which they love to outline on competing technologies, product vendors, service providers and anything else you care to mention.  There are some subjects which can always be relied upon to spark the euphemistic “free and frank exchange of views”.  So it was no surprise recently when I found myself in a group of CIOs with decades of experience (and the associated scars!) that the topic of IT transformation proved somewhat provocative.

The discussion started with the usual tussle over defining the term and distinguishing a technology upgrade/deployment from a business change enabled by technology programme.  The group reassuringly quickly reached agreement that the term implied an undue focus on technology.  The group preference was for the term “IT enabled business transformation”.  There was also rapid agreement on the key characteristics conveyed by that term.  These included the delivery of material business benefits gained by a tightly managed and closely measured technology enabled process change which is implemented with a clear focus on the people change requirements.

However, the debate restarted when it was suggested that the term “digital transformation” was a far better label.   The discussion also covered the term “two speed IT function” used by some analysts or “bimodal IT” as coined by Gartner to recognise the digital age facets.  All agreed that the digital age was driving a far higher focus on people within technology deployments, both in terms of the expectations created by consumerisation of IT services and the technical competence of the people consuming them.

I quite like the concept of “bimodal IT” as I do think it helps describe the duality corporate IT functions now face, namely the incessant demand for innovation at speed balanced against need to ensure appropriate data security and integrity.  We certainly must retain the disciplines of a well-defined, managed and executed business transformation enabled by technology painfully learned over many decades!  However, we do need to find risk managed ways to combine those virtues with that of rapid development, deployment and evolution of products and services.  The mantra of “measure carefully and if you are going to fail, fail early” is a good one in my view.

The importance of ensuring that the delivery remains current, valuable and aligned to requirements is not new.  However, what is new is the speed at which these programmes are now expected to deliver and so the imperative of ensuring relevance becomes more key.  That said if you leverage the right communication tools it is possible to address that requirement by harnessing the power of the population your delivery is to serve.  Doing so requires a high level of agility in every aspect of the transformation programme not to mention in its senior management sponsors.

It has always been tempting for people to label IT initiatives as transformational.  Arguably the inherent characteristics of what is truly an IT transformation programme have not changed over the years.  However, it seems very clear that some of those characteristics have evolved and gained importance in the digital age.  The people engagement imperative has become unavoidable and truly central in every sense.  This collaboration expectation combines with the relentlessly increasing pace at which delivery is demanded to create a new sense of excitement.  Successfully delivering an IT enabled business transformation programme has never been easy and we continue to improve our ability to get them right.

I think using the term digital transformation is helpful.  I much prefer it to IT transformation and it is less cumbersome than the more wordy IT enabled business transformation.  I think the word digital encapsulates business, information and technology.  It recognises for me that it is increasingly hard to distinguish between the “business” and the “IT” in the digital age.

This post was previously published on the Business Value Exchange.

Just Connect?

Is 2015 the year in which the much discussed Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming mainstream?  I was prompted to muse on this question by watching a friend remotely check and then reset the temperature of his home via their smartphone from our restaurant table.  Also that same evening saw me extolling the benefits of my health wearable device and demonstrating how to review my statistics via an app on my smartphone.  This is certainly different from the initial smart sensors on goods and within warehouses that help track stock levels and triggered replenishment orders.  My first encounter with IoT was in the smart meter space in the energy sector.  This is where meters enhanced with sensors are deployed to enable the providers to remotely monitor energy usage real-time and use that feedback to optimise their delivery model.

IoT 2 - shutterstock_254834209 (2)Indeed defining the term IoT can be problematic.  I like this definition from a McKinsey article, that it is “the networking of physical objects through the use of embedded sensors, actuators, and other devices that can collect or transmit information about the objects. The data amassed from these devices can then be analysed to optimize products, services, and operations”.   In 2011 when IoT first hit my radar I remember many articles from analysts predicting that by 2020 the market for connected devices would have reached somewhere between 50 billion and 100 billion units.  Generally analysts today seem to be talking about a reduced but still material 20 billion or 30 billion units by that date.

To enable that scale to be reached we need to look beyond the “Things” and indeed even the connectivity aspect.  Ultimately the old mantra of “it is all about the data” is at the heart of the key ingredients required.  It is not just about getting the data to a store in the cloud.  It is about doing so in a way that reflects the information privacy and security dimension within a framework of enabling technology standards.  I don’t think we will realise the promise if we end up with an IoT that is more the “Internet of Proprietary Things”.

I picked up on the proprietary angle in an article by Matt Honan in the magazine Wired:  “Apple is building a world in which there is a computer in your every interaction, waking and sleeping.  A computer in your pocket.  A computer on your body.  A computer paying for all your purchases.  A computer opening your hotel room door.  A computer monitoring your movements as you walk through the mall.   A computer watching you sleep.   A computer controlling the devices in your home.  A computer that tells you where you parked.  A computer taking your pulse, telling you how many steps you took, how high you climbed and how many calories you burned – and sharing it all with your friends…. The ecosystem may be lush, but it will be, by design, limited.  Call it the Internet of Proprietary Things.”

Many see a darker side to the IoT vision.   They see a world where you are constantly tracked, monitored and the data about you monetised without your permission on a massive scale.  Indeed some go as far as seeing the IoT as enabling a far more effective and efficient surveillance by the state, yet with the added twist that we seem to be volunteering to have it.

Cyber Surveillance - shutterstock_95308294 (2)

The threat seen is that we end up being monitoring by every device in our lives from our cars, to our household white goods, to a massive range of smartphone or wearable type apps and to the more understood spend trail we leave with credit and debit cards.  This set of data points will then be correlated, analysed and without the relevant protections on privacy sold on to businesses without you being explicitly aware and agreeing.

There are a number of articles around that counter this point by making a link from IoT in this regard to social media.  I think the point they miss in doing so is that social media is for those that are suitably wary about presenting a curated view of yourself.  As the world becomes ever more digitized and people tracked by a growing myriad of devices it will almost certainly leave fewer and fewer opportunities to decide not to participate.   It’s one thing to curate the view of yourself that is broadcast on social media.  It would seem to me to be quite another to see how much curated content will exist in the world IoT might create.  I think it is vital that the IoT promise is achieved by having an appropriate model of regulation to ensure privacy remains an option.

Images sourced from Shutterstock.
This blog post was previous published on the Business Value Exchange.

Digital Zoom – Part 2

It seems clear that cloud computing in public, private and/or hybrid guise will become the norm for corporate IT over the course of 2015.  However, to deliver the promised pricing and supply elasticity it will be critical for suppliers to have achieved scale.   As a result it seems very likely that suppliers sometimes called the “hyper scale cloud players” will become an even more material presence in the corporate sector.  The key three players of the “hyper scale cloud” club would seem to be AWS, Azure and Google.

However, scale alone will be insufficient as it will not just be all about lower cost per unit consumed.  During 2014 it has become increasingly clear that management of cloud services, particularly integrated management of multiple cloud platforms is going to be a key differentiator for suppliers.  The recent collaboration announcement by Accenture and Microsoft on their Hybrid Cloud Platform initiative is arguably recognition of this point.  Many analysts are also rightly seeing the management imperative as being tightly linked to one of automation.  Automation will be critical to deliver the essential real time monitoring and self-healing facilities as well as enabling the required cost economics to operate shared platforms at scale.  Responding successfully to these imperatives will require bold investment strategies and the associated financial means to invest and await the returns in future years.  To help manage the investment implications I also think we will see more partnerships announced as well as a willingness to enter into joint ventures.

Digital Zoom - shutterstock_96758821 (2)

In the software arena I think 2015 will see big winners in those with analytic tooling that can enable access to digital stores, increasingly across multiple data silos.  The software architectures will have to accommodate the mobile device favoured by data consumers and deliver a highly contextualised interaction model.  The key challenge is going to be how to make money quickly enough to fund the required software development in a way that matches the flexibility and fragmentation of the demand.

Pace will be a critical factor and it will continue to be one of the key threats to the enabling infrastructure both in terms of meeting the function demand but also in being able to iterate rapidly to remain current.  This last point brings me to my first New Year’s resolution scarily early.  At a recent CIO webinar the topic of DevOps came up as one of the key tactics technology providers will need to adopt to achieve the required flexibility and speed of action and reaction.  My resolution is to address my feckless knowledge gap and educate myself on DevOps as I was somewhat embarrassed on the call to be largely uninformed on this topic.  I will return to this topic to update on my progress or lack thereof in early 2015, but if useful to you too here is an excellent DevOps focused site!

Post was original made on the Business Value Exchange site.
Image is via Shutterstock.

Digital Zoom – Part 1

As always December is a good month to find opinions being shared on what 2015 will bring in terms of technology trends.  My good intentions are always to commit my thoughts to writing early in the month.  Typically each year I fail to act and reach the middle of January before sitting down to write.  This year I aim to break the trend!  However, my other firm resolve to get the Christmas cards into the post early has once again proved fruitless.

I think 2014 was the year in which the “drive to a digital world” really gathered pace and became all pervasive. How that digital content is being consumed is key and many analysts are arguing that more time is being spent consuming data via mobile applications than via the web.  A good articulation of this argument has been made by Benedict Evans in his post entitled “Mobile Is Eating The World”.  It seems that the drive to a digital world and mobile devices are completely intertwined.  It is clear that success in 2015 in virtually all business spheres will depend on how adeptly companies continue to adapt their business model and offerings to the digital world.

Digital World - shutterstock_69191626

The expectation that services can be consumed at the total convenience of the customer is now deeply embedded, certainly in the societies of the G20 countries and arguably globally.  That “anytime, anyplace, anywhere” mantra (yes I am old enough to remember the famous Martini advert!) is conditioned I think by the importance of brand recognition, context and trust.  It seems to me that people are becoming slowly more aware of the risks of the digital world, particularly the ability to trust content and to rely on privacy for data and identity.  A Forrester analyst Heidi Shey recently blogged that “Today, about a third of security decision-makers in North America and Europe view privacy as a competitive differentiator.  Forrester expects to see half of enterprises share this sentiment by the end of 2015”.  The detail of the research is behind the Forrester pay-wall but the summary is worth a read.

Clearly to enable the hyper-connected digital world we will need to see the underlying infrastructure continue to evolve at an ever increasing pace.  I think the argument that the digital world is made real through an ever growing population of devices and sensors combining to enable contextual data consumption is right.  A very persuasive summary of this argument was given by Satya Nadella back in March 2014 early in his tenure at Microsoft in his “Mobile first, Cloud first” strategy messaging.  The Internet of Things (IoT) concept will become ever more real and valuable in 2015. It will require underlying cloud based services to enable the collection, collation and presentation back in a value adding form and context.  The rapid proliferation of wearables technology is just one visible sign of the devices landscape that will enable the digital world and realise the IoT promise.  The sheer number of mobile phones (often quoted as being over 7 billion now in use) with the “there is an app for that” assumption is bringing the connected digital world into the consumer mainstream ever more quickly.

We are all now expecting that the different data units required to enable a transaction or consumer experience to take place will be seamlessly collated and enacted.  The initial “wow that is clever” reaction to data being combined to enable something that was once slow and painful to execute will increasingly be replaced by impatience and frustration if it is not so.  I tried to explain to someone the other day how hard it used to be to renew car road tax as opposed to the online seamless checking of the various key components required for validation delivered by the DVLA website. I felt ancient!

So in short I see 2015 as the year where the IoT concept becomes visible to the mainstream.  It will be the year where the difference between a strong digitisation strategy and an average one will translate to material competitive advantage.  It will be the year where brands that demonstrate the quality of their content and deliver a superb customer experience combined with an appropriate contextualised respect for data and identity privacy will win.

All very exciting might be your reaction, but what does that mean for those of us in the technology sector then?

Post was also published on the Business Value Exchange.
Image is via Shutterstock.

A big data reality check

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being the chair for the Fujitsu North America Technology Forum 2012. The focus of the event was extremely topical as it was “From Sensor Networks to Human Networks: Turning Big Data into Actionable Wisdom”. Alongside the excellent presentations there were also specific topic breakout sessions as well as a technology hall with 20 new opportunities showcased as well as innovative solutions from Fujitsu’s research and development programmes working on “leveraging ‘big data’ to transform business, society and our daily lives”. That’s certainly a big vision statement!

The event attracted around 400 attendees which managed to combine a significant scale with a nice feeling of intimacy.  What struck me most about the day was the high level of interest and the wide range of perspectives represented and explored.  Oh and yes I also learned the value of your main keynote speaker being someone as experienced and relaxed as Gordon Bell – when the microphone failed just as he got into his stride; it was great to see a professional handle that blip without a flick of concern or missing a beat!

This is not the first time we’ve mentioned the big data topic on this blog (and you can read more on our Technology Perspectives site) but the over-riding message I took from my many discussions during the event was that people seem fairly comfortable with the concept but are very much focused on how to extract “actionable wisdom”.  In the context the presentation from Michael Chui of McKinsey Global Institute is definitely worth some reading time as a great summary of where value might be drawn across the industry spectrum.  There is also more detail in a research paper he published in 2011 entitled “Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity”.

I was also extremely interested in one of the breakout sessions focusing on the healthcare sector when Fujitsu Laboratories of America (FLA) spoke of partnering with a technology subsidiary of a healthcare provider, Springfield Clinic.  This joint development around remote patient monitoring and reporting caught my attention and I was able to discuss in more detail outside of the session with Jim Hewitt, CEO Jardogs and CIO Springfield Clinic.  I was excited to hear about some technology I’d seen during its earlier research incarnation, a remote sensing platform, had been integrated with Jardogs’ FollowMyHealth Universal Health Record (UHR).  The combination creates an anytime, anywhere collection and transmits selected health data types to be immediately usable by the patients UHR.  There is definitely a buzz to be had from seeing something you saw at a very early conceptual stage becoming real and moving to pilot deployment.

Finally what gave me most food for thought was the keynote presentation by Gordon Bell and his MyLifeBits initiative; the digital storage of every aspect of a life.  I am still mulling over the questions his material raised for me and deciding what conclusions I reach.  It certainly made a term like “digital universe” have wider connotations and more personal resonance for me than it did before he started speaking.

If you’d like to learn more, follow these links to: more images; copies of the presentation materials; and details of this and previous FLA events.

Futurology: art, science or nonsense?

Recently I was asked to present to a group of MBA students on my view of the future and how technology will shape our world by 2015 through to 2020 and beyond. I decided to deliver the session under the title “Futurology – Science, Art or Nonsense?”.

At this time of year it is tempting to wrap up the events of the year with a forecast of what the future will bring. You may be pleased to know that I am going to resist that temptation!

This is primarily because, early in 2012, we will be refreshing the Fujitsu view of the trends shaping our world and the potential outcomes, Technology Perspectives, so I’ll hold fire for now – although I do commend the current material to you as we will evolve our views not completely re-invent them!

Even so, I couldn’t resist re-reading my blog post from December 2010 and musing on how much of what I talked about was still relevant. The post was primarily about the concept of consumerisation of IT and my sense then that it was not restricted to being the generational trait that in 2010 many of us had linked to “Generation Y”. Twelve months on, I think it is clear that the expectation our corporate workplace will have the same 21st century technology capabilities as the consumer arena has moved into the mainstream. The most frequent topic on which I’ve been asked to give an opinion in 2011 is “Bring Your Own” technology (BYO) in its many variants and consequences for the corporate IT landscape. Indeed at the point where I moved from the CIO position in Fujitsu UK and Ireland to my current role the two topics dominating my CIO barometer of demand were requests for BYO solutions and our moving to support Android based smartphones and tablets within our own BYO initiative.

If you remember with the help of my HR colleagues I was able to have the data set rendered anonymous and then age group analysed. In May when the demand on these topics started to register in the monthly statistics there was a clear Generation Y skew, however by September the total figures for Android support were equally split between Generation Y and Generation X (c45% each of volume) yet the BYO demand remained Generation Y dominated (60% of volume). I’m not going to ponder on the demographic angle in this post but what I will say is that in a company of around 12,000 employees over the period I had over 1,000 requests for BYOT and over 2,500 requests for Android smartphone or tablet support (not necessarily all unique, i.e. people could have requested both). This level of interest mirrored what we saw in the marketplace and in the requests for opinion from CIOs from across our client base.

So whilst I am sidestepping listed some forecasts for 2012 I can say that the most common topic I have been asked to talk about over recently months is “Big Data” and “Smart Cities/Infrastructure” (the Intelligent Society). I no longer have the CIO Barometer to give me some data points but I am willing to assert that I think in 12 months we may well be reflecting on a year that saw that concept become pervasive and examples of business value being derived from it become easy to list.

It seems appropriate to end my last blog post of 2011 in the year which saw the passing of Steve Jobs to end with one of my favourite Apple related quotes. The final line from Apple’s famous Think Different campaign was:

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Clearly 2012 is going to be a challenging year on so many levels for us all, but alongside the challenges there are plenty of opportunities too. Have a restful festive period and return refreshed for what lies ahead.

Some thoughts on the “Internet of Things”

The “Internet of Things” has become a commonly used phrase and I think it’s quite a good on: we’ve some idea what the “Things” are but no idea where it will lead (although Hollywood has tried a few times over the years). One thing we can not do is dissolve ourselves of the management responsibility as there will always need to be humans somewhere in the system to avoid the “Skynet” scenario from the Terminator films.

More positively, the Internet of Things has the potential to make the digital world a very pervasive aspect of our daily lives in the physical world, supporting and enhancing many of the positive aspects of society and the aspirations we have for living together.

Eventually, people will have as many sensors as a Formula One racing cars (well, quite a few anyway!), sending lots of data in to the cloud.  Not quite as wired up as the people involved with the measured life movement but they are leading the charge. At some point out human-centric devices will become patches (electronic tattoos), powered by energy harvested from our bodies (thermal or kinetic) and that’s when things get really exciting. We can expect to see mobile phones being used as a proxy device to pass telemetry to the Cloud. You can see why the Health industry wants this technology (although, by then we’re not talking about health but “well being”) and we might need far fewer trips to visit a doctor as a result.

Intelligent Device Hierarchy Potential, by Harbor ResearchNow with the number of “things” feeding the Internet, the potential to manage and change the way we do things is an exciting prospect – and we’re not just looking at health – examples include energy management, traffic management, alert and monitoring systems – the list goes on.

One example reaching commercial introduction is the Boeing-Fujitsu partnership with RFID tags, where the tags contain the service history of a component and, using hand held scanners, maintenance staff can determine which parts need to be serviced – how long before this can be managed in-flight, with the parts waiting on the ground ready to intercept the aircraft on a just-in time basis?

Another aspect of the Internet of things will be our ability to make smart decisions based on the large volumes of data we will have to hand. This “big data”, along with associated analytics tools, can be used to spot patterns with examples including traffic, energy consumption and weather. Imagine a world of connected systems where the weatherman might not only predict the “Barbeque Summer” with a little more accuracy, but we won’t get stuck in traffic as we all rush to the beach!

Image credit: Harbor Research

Big data – the professional and the amateur

In my last post on big data I hypothesised that really we are just beginning to understand some of the implications.

Within this evolving ecosystem we have an interesting tension developing between the role of the professional and a community of amateurs. Three models of engagement seem to be emerging between the two communities, all of which deliver value, regardless of any apparent conflict:

  1. Where there is an immense volume of data, how does a professional get to the core data they need as quickly as possible? Possibly by setting a simple classification process and using crowd sourcing to triage data in a similar manner to the Galaxy Zoo experiments. Effectively the professional can work on the needle once the haystack has been removed.
  2. In the second model, a community of interest is created. An example of this is Patients Like Me – a data-oriented social network bringing together people with a shared interest (in this case chronic illness). They share how they feel, their condition, the symptoms they are exhibiting and the treatments they are receiving. What’s interesting is when the community of interest can support and in some cases challenge the opinion of the professionals.
  3. Model three is concerned with gamification, in that it encourages loyalty, participation and a particular behaviour through rewards. In reality it’s rewarding people or making a game of something that most of us would consider a chore. Another post examined the concept of gamification in the workplace and in another example, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is looking to add game-play mechanics to continue its quest (which I’m sure we all did ten years ago, but got bored with it when ET did not come to visit!).

These three models offer a means to harness society and resolve real problems for real people in a timely and collaborative way. The non professionals amongst us contribute through triage to allow the professionals to operate upon the nugget that makes a difference.

So what am I trying to say here is that social networks are not only a means of creating massive data sets but can also be used to extract value for the common good. The interest may be as part of a hobby, a personal interest in the subject, or participants might just be looking to earn some rewards, but engaging amateurs and professionals in a collaborative manner could lead to an exponential growth in ideas, reduced time to market for products, validation of products and services (and the list goes on), all because “we did our bit” on the big data mountain.

Big data – getting on the front foot

With cloud now part of everyday language, the next big thing is Big Data. Essentially it is the recognition that the digital world is generating increasing volumes of data (according to Cisco, humans created more data in 2009 than in all previous years combined), most of which no one is doing anything with, except storing it. The challenge articulated by the big data concept is effective mining and analysis the data to create value and wealth. By way of an example, The Big Mac Index brings together a set of data that can give an indication of the relative wealth of a country but how and when it is applied is the key.

Titling this post “Big Data – getting on the front foot” refers to a balance with human intuition; we often make a decision based on a small set of knowledge and information only to be second-guessed later with facts and figures that indicate whether our decision was correct (or not). For me the execution of big data is to put the right information, data and knowledge in to the hands of the decision maker at the point they need it, not at some point post-decision. What does this mean for you and me? Well, healthcare professionals, retailers, financial services providers, government or just about anyone that we interact with in a social or business context will have immense amounts of information about us and our relative positions in teams of health, wealth, buying habits, risk for insurance purposes etc. – let’s hope that the decisions they make, based on that data, are the correct ones!

Fujitsu’s vision of a Human Centric Intelligent Society highlights all the positive aspects of this digital society with the “Internet of Things” playing a pervasive role. But is the World going to be so different as a result or will it spin just a bit faster? If we take our health and well being as an example, there is a logical chain events that lead to a general improvement. By using a simple logical sequence of mapping the human genome, understanding the variation from what is expected, how we live and the environment we live in, we can potentially be offered very precise and evidence-based advice on how to avoid certain illnesses. Add the ability to model potential drugs in the digital world against the human gnome including demographic variances and the potential outcome has a huge value to society. The research and development costs of drugs drop considerably as potential failures are weeded out very early in the development cycle and, using big data, a doctor can map the best drug to a condition you have based on your gnome.

It all sounds great but there are some challenges along the way:

  • McKinsey indicate that big data will bring lots of new jobs; however it’s my hypothesis that these are really the same jobs carried out differently.
  • Some of the bastions of our society (particularly in the west) will need to change. For example, insurance companies will need to take a different view on their risk-based business model (otherwise we will all be uninsurable!).
  • We’ll need to take a different approach to security too – look at how the “Facebook generation” views sharing and what they care about.

In short – we will all have to behave differently in the world of Big Data. After all, it’s not just a big social network where everyone is your friend!