The Next Generation of Big Data

PICTURE this — your phone wakes you with a pre-set alarm of your choice and flashes the top news of the day on a holographic display, as your shades automatically retract to let in the morning sun. Your coffeemaker whips up your favourite caffeinated beverage — to your preferred temperature — as you get ready for work in an automated shower and smart walk-in wardrobe that picks out a suitable outfit for your day’s schedule. You grab your coffee and settle into your car, which then self-drives you to your office using the most efficient route for that particular day and time. And this is just your morning routine.

This may sound like the stuff of science fiction but, with the growing prominence and ubiquity of big data analytics and the internet of things, it’s not a very far-fetched scenario. As it is today, a number of the innovations listed above already exist, in some form or other, and are in use. We have smartphones capable of being programmed with several customised alarms, mechanised curtain systems, rudimentary versions of our dream smart coffeemakers and self-driving vehicles that are already plying the roads of a number of countries.

Chew on that as you ponder how this explosion of data will create a range of job opportunities for the 21st century and beyond — not just in data analytics but in other occupations that arise as an offshoot to the creation of new products and services based on the information acquired from this data. We daresay that the jobs our kids or grandkids aspire to will be very different from what we dreamt of in our childhood, whether in terms of the job scope or the qualifications you would need to perform those jobs.

The key aspect of the future of this high potential big data industry lies in the “I” factor, representing innovation, intelligence and ideas. Being able to harness all three would put your company in good stead against your competitors. As the world becomes more connected through the digital world, we’re seeing an increasing number of companies coming up and shaking things up across various industries — think Uber (public transportation), Airbnb (travel, hotels) and Ezetap (electronic payments), the top 3 companies in CNBC’s fourth annual Disruptor 50 list. These are examples of start-ups that germinated from an idea to make something better, to address a need for new solutions to existing challenges — and they’re harnessing the power of big data to drive their businesses.

For big data firms, we would add another “I” factor — integrity. For companies dealing with the collating and analysing of data, integrity is probably the biggest issue that they face. This particular “I” will determine how the company functions — from its processes and equipment to its personnel and policies. After all, information based on unreliable data gathered through sloppy means and analysed without conviction is useless.

This issue of integrity also highlights another important factor that big data firms will find themselves facing before too long — data security. Your company’s treatment of data from the point of collection to storage to interpretation for client use — has to be done with integrity to minimise data leaks and abuse. Think of Yahoo’s major security breach that has affected 1 billion accounts or Sony’s Twitter account that was hacked to erroneously declare Britney Spear’s death. A misstep in this department would not only mean losing the confidence of your clients and respondents who provide you with data but also losing your company’s reputation.

However, prospects are aplenty for those willing to aptly harness innovation, intelligence and ideas — and integrity — to carve a place themselves in this unchartered territory. Fortune favours the bold, and the future of big data looks enticingly bright and exciting.