We hear the phrase “Big Data” a lot these days; and for good reason: big data can bring significant business results and in many cases is the core business model for behemoths such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. But can Big Data play a role in more conventional business, the answer? A resounding, ”Yes!”
Big Data is generated from the millions upon millions of times people, sensors or devices interact with a larger system, or indeed each other. It is a log of the point of contact made across a myriad of systems and platforms.
As an example: When Google users activate Location Tracking on their devices, the movement and activity of that device (and by extension its user) is precisely tracked as the device moves across the globe. In exchange for providing Google Maps, a high-value service in the form of updated, accurate maps and navigation services, Google extracts billions upon billions of small data points about the location and activity of its user-base. The data is then not only fed back into the Google Maps system (keeping it to-the-minute accurate) but also into Google’s powerful analytics algorithms that then cross-reference the location information with everything else they may know about the user’s search history, creating powerful insights into consumer behaviour. This makes Google an exceptionally intelligent advertising platform; the massive data sets produced by the devices they are installed on result in deep insights about each and every one of their users.
This is not, however, big news. Most of us are already aware of, perhaps even slightly uncomfortable with, the ways in which we are observed and tracked by the software we choose to use. However big data is not simply a catch-phrase that applies to Silicon Valley, it is increasingly revolutionising large industrial and commercial enterprises seeking increased competitive advantage.
Ironically, most companies have already been generating big data sets; however they lacked the insight, sensor and tracking systems, database expertise and AI infrastructure to do much with it. While insurance company records hold a wealth of information about the lifestyles, risk profiles and purchasing decisions of their customers – the information was frequently captured by different departments, and often lay fallow as analogue records. Retailers know precisely how much of every imaginable consumer product is being sold, yet, until recently with the emergence of loyalty swipe cards, they had no idea whom they were selling it to. Arcane methods of face-to-face and telephonic research had to be conducted by FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) manufacturers to establish the most basic consumer profiles. Until recently car manufacturers had been missing a golden opportunity to understand how their products were used and consumed, and only now are we seeing the emergence of remote sensor loaded, cloud connected cars that track and analyse how they are driven.
The fact is that sensor-driven technology has made capturing data across almost every aspect of any business not just accessible and simple, but increasingly necessary to retain a competitive edge.
The Bank of America recently placed smart sensors in the name badges of their employees. The sensors tracked movement, proximity to other employees and even the tone of voice used in communication. They discovered that the top performing call centre agents tended to take breaks together. By implementing a company-wide break policy the bank managed to improve performance by 23%, while at the same time reducing overall call centre agent stressors. UK mega-retailer Tescos requires warehouse staff to wear sensor-enabled armbands, which interact with the RFID tags and sensors in the products they move. The resulting data analysis enables the retailer to better distribute tasks amongst employees, predict and mange delivery times, and even signal dangerous fatigue.
At this point it is important to note that anecdotes such as the wearables scenarios above appear as once-off success stories, but they are smaller examples of a much larger trend: the emersion in, and transformation to, technologically-driven business models. Very many companies stand on this cusp, with even large, globe-spanning enterprises balking at the cost and skills revolution required. It can even be said that being at this cusp produces a form of existential crisis amongst business leaders a common refrain being, “…but we are not a tech company!”
In a recent interview with McKinsey, Jeff Immelt, CEO General Electric is unequivocal, “Industrial companies are now in the information business—whether they like it or not”. Big data, and the associated technologies such as Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, are not trends or blips in the technology landscape, they are increasingly critical elements to achieving competitive advantage, and may soon define who succeeds and who fails in the economies of the future.
Every single business produces data, and data is an asset. The collection, protection and analysis of this data must be a key priority for all established and emerging business, of any size, and across any sector. Xemote specialises in remote sensoring products that can be designed specifically for your purposes: manage efficiencies, track data across a wide array of strata, track movement, product, equipment and staff performance using a simple network of cloud-connected sensors. Xemote has the capacity and experience to not only assist you with the capture of the data, but will design bespoke software interfaces that generate immediately useful sets of visualised data, ultimately providing you with new and powerful insights into how your business is operating.