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July 14, 2014

Leveraging the Internet of Everything

Posted by Sanjeev Arya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:26 AM

Maximizing value from data explosion - social development with insights than mere intuition [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Bk5vgavYk]

When oil prospectors began striking it rich in the American Southwest during the 19th century, each one would hope for a "gusher." That meant that he had drilled deep enough into a well filled with oil and the pressure under the earth would force it up in a large plume. Gushers took a while to cap, and millions of gallons could be lost over the landscape until rig workers got them under control. But once it was capped and a pipeline brought in, the prospector could expect to tap into exponentially more oil for weeks and even months. The story of the 19th century oil boom is not unlike what's happening today with the global data boom.

Enterprises are benefiting from the fact that exabytes of data (that's 10 to the power of 18) are created every day. The most successful enterprises control those gushers of information, cap them off, and direct them in pipelines to the right places where that data will be parsed and utilized. The World Economic Forum's latest Global Technology Report (GTR) points to this data explosion as part of the inevitable growth of the Internet of Things. So far, only a small fraction of things that have the potential to be connected digitally are indeed connected as such. As more devices - from sneakers to toaster ovens - become connected to the IP networks, all that data will begin a profound transformation. According to the WEF's experts, we're going to begin to see significant amounts of data result into actionable information.

How? Well, when enterprises have information, they have value. Indeed, as soon as 2020, there will be more than 40 trillion gigabytes (or 40 yottabytes) of digital data, according to the report. That's like allocating 5,200 gigabytes to each person on the planet. Yet at the moment only about 1 percent of the world's physical devices are connected to an IP network. The more the Internet of Everything is able to connect those devices, the sooner organizations will be able to analyze all that data and create valuable insights.

At the base of the data pyramid is the actual IoE, generating huge amounts of raw data. Analysis and analytics transform data into information. But the pyramid doesn't end there. All of that actionable information is further refined and becomes knowledge. Finally, according to the WEF, an enterprise can use that knowledge to discover insights and make informed decisions, which leads to the top of the pyramid: wisdom.

This reminds me of a clever model that astrophysicists like to talk about when helping people understand the interconnected nature of the cosmos. It describes a single butterfly that flaps it wings in central Africa causing, in due time, a rainstorm over a western Canadian mountain range. That's kind of like the current state of Big Data. So much of it exists, and each data point can cause a chain reaction that will eventually cause a number of other events. So until we harness all that data and make use of it, it's like sand slipping through our fingers.

Enterprises aren't the only entities that are beginning to benefit from the power of information. As more devices become connected to the greater world and the IoE continues to grow, entire nations and regions will begin to increase their productivity and spur economic growth. The WEF is understandably a fan of technological forces that can be harnessed for the greater good. I think it's exciting that enterprises are leading the way and showing governments around the world that as more of their citizens become connected, the information their actions generate will result in significant social development. So the IoE is going to go well beyond just connecting, say, your front door lock to your tablet. It's going be about to tracking diseases, proactively monitoring and eventually, eradicating them because of the collective wisdom that comes from a connected world.

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