Thursday, June 6, 2013

What I learned at the Economist Information Forum on Big Data in San Francisco

I was lucky enough to get to my first ever Economist event and must say the progamme (as the Brit's call it) was very strong.  Eric Schmidt was a speaker and that was worth the price of entry alone,  although I would have preferred more Q&A with him.

As I hinted at earlier they got the, is big data real? question out of the way early and its clear from all the speakers and panelists that its very real.  My in depth blog on Monday was on the 2 barriers to IoT and I was hearing some echoes of the "who owns the data" barrier coming up repeatedly.  Michael Flowers from the New York City's mayors office had great examples of how big data is making building inspectors more efficient and might even save lives and more to the point he is the city's Open Data Officer which means there are big data sets out there which will probably always be free.  Eric Schmidt said that whoever can build a big data platform with the potential of a billion users will be the next massive growth company and can be funded instantly.  Any takers out there?  As to the question of the flow of data he thinks it can't simply be solved by a new form of broker, the data platform must add value or analytics in order to be monetizeable.  My take is that just having free global access to data will allow other businesses to monetize it in their own way.  I am going to launch a site called freedataflow.org to track the data opportunities that already exist (I have registered the domain,  hope to get it going soon).

Big Data falls into category 3 of my IoT framework and its received a lot of attention over the last couple of years in the IT world and developments there will actually assist in the adoption of IoT so its worth taking a look at.  Here are some hot topics on big data I picked up:


  1. The ownership and rules for sharing big data is still a huge issue for all of the speakers and a particularly impassioned questioner at one of the sessions.
  2. Adding location to data could be worth another $600 billion a year in transactions to retailers and service businesses which is staggering
  3. Health care could be the killer app (excuse the wording here) in big data since there is so much inefficiency and cost in our current systems.
  4. One big data application example came from Adobe's CIO, she said that now they are a subscription service business they can see what features of software are being used and what needs improvement.  This is real time product development and it could open some huge opportunities for services and quality.


There were many more examples of big data in action brought up but most were very corporate IT focused and the market doesn't seem to be embracing IoT yet.

If you have seen a really innovative or thought provoking big data application please comment below.

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