No one cares about technology for technology’s sake. Well, probably some deep-drive gearheads do, but no CIO is going to get a board to finance a huge technology purchase without some clear use case.
That’s why it’s so gratifying to see the uptake of big data across the industry spectrum. It’s not just the survey results that columnist Louis Columbus talked about last week, in which 84% of enterprises see big data changing their industries in the next year. Or the results Mike Wheatley recently noted in his Silicon Angle blog, based on a joint Accenture/General Electric looking at the so-called “industrial Internet.” In the latter, 66% of executives believe that there’s “an urgent need to adopt big data technologies to avoid losing their market position.”
But the uptake isn’t limited to industrialized or retail enterprises. We’re talking public sector, fashion, and even television.
The television industry, of course, has always relied on numbers, but it’s always relied on sampling and ratings. As Variety noted last month, ABC redesigned its iPad Watch app, based on analysis of how its users were interacting with the so-called second screen. Albert Cheng, executive vice-president and chief product officer for digital media for Disney/ABC Television Group said, “It’s really an example of how we looked at analytics to make our decisions.”
Cheng noted that ABC had assumed that when viewers were watching both the television and the tablet, the experiences were innately linked. But when it analyzed its data, they discovered that “only a small percentage of people” are interacting with the show; they’re on Facebook or Twitter or e-mail. The result: the updated app includes more social and multitasking features.
If there’s an industry where it’s harder to predict success than in television, it’s probably fashion. Yet my former colleague Katherine Noyes has just profiled a couple of start-ups in the fashion industry who want to use big data to predict trends in that traditionally unpredictable industry.
Australian fashion designer Julie Fowler launched Editd (pronounced “edited”) because, she said, “Every time you see a product on discount, it’s because wrong decisions were made. … I wanted to fix that problem.” How? By aggregating trend and sales information from retail sites, social media, designer runway reports, and fashion blogs, and then making it accessible in real time to clients.
We’re talking really big data here: information from the last four years encompassing 1,000 global retailers and the social activity of 800,000 people. The result: “no few than 53 billion data points on the fashion industry.”
Then there’s the public sector, an industry that almost everyone – those who gladly pay taxes and those who reluctantly pay taxes – can agree could increase its efficiency quotient. Dave McGinn wrote recently in the Globe & Mail about cities using big data in a number of ways, including:
- A 28-acre New York City redevelopment project installing sensors to measure everything from energy consumption to pedestrian traffic
- A Lyon, France project using real-time data and algorithms to help determine detours in case of accidents or tie-ups
- A Vancouver, British Columbia law enforcement analytics project that has gathered data since 2008 and, by analyzing crime patterns, has helped reduce property crime by 24 percent and violent crime by 9 percent
This is not to say that other, more traditional industries aren’t benefiting from big data – they are. In Insurance Journal last week, Andrea Wells cited an insurance industry consulting firm’s survey indicating that “39 percent of insurers with more than $1 billion in premium are investing” in big data, as well as the brokers and reinsurers of the world.”
Also, as Amy-jo Crowley noted in CBR last week, another Accenture survey, this time of the chemical industry, revealed that 72% of respondents “expect to derive the best ROI from investments in big data and analytics,” second only to the results for cloud computing. As Accenture’s managing director for the chemical and natural resources industry noted, “To drive business value, companies need the data and advanced analytics capabilities that allow them to make better, faster and more-informed decisions.”
Now, as the financial industry is wont to say, past performance is no indicator of future returns. But the potential for eliminating waste, returns, and inefficiency in a number of industries – simply by getting insight into what’s happening and analyzing it more-granularly – makes the potential for big data really exciting.Author: Howard Baldwin, Forbes Tech