Over the course of my 27 year IT career I have seen many trends and new technologies. I started out as a COBOL programmer on a “green-screen” 3270 terminal and now use my iPhone to do things that would have taken 9 different devices in 1989.
I rode the wave to the internet and saw some incredible applications that have become indispensable. If in 1996 you said “Google it” people would have thought you were nuts. Think about how many things we take for granted. The iPhone isn’t even 10 years old yet, and look at how smartphone technology has changed our lives. What’s next for IT? What other frontiers are left to be settled?
We hear a lot of buzz about “the cloud” but is it really much different than the mainframe? Yes, it’s functionally very different, but conceptually it’s similar. All your data and compute in a central location. Yes it's cool but life changing? Not really. What is catching some of my attention is the Internet of Things. "Machine generated data" is pretty boring, not really going to capture the crowd at the next Apple keynote.
But it really is very exciting from an IT perspective, really it is.
There are millions of devices on the internet, all generating data. The average Boeing 787 generates nearly 500GB of data per flight, your office HVAC system generates data, the smartphone in your pocket, the thermostat in your house, the car you drive, the elevator you rode in today, you get the picture. Lots of data but is there any real meaning beyond the intended function? Well that depends. The McKenzie Group referred to this data as digital exhaust, the byproduct of what create it during its intended function.
This is where “Big Data” really hits the ground running. Imagine if there were ways to utilize this data for the greater good; finding patterns of use to determine the most effective way to utilize resources. Imagine if data generated by GPS devices or software could open and close lanes to increase the flow of traffic to avoid traffic jams or to make way for emergency vehicles. What if we could use passenger utilization in public transportation to assign the right kinds and frequency of busses during peak and non-peak times instead of beholden to a 1950’s style bus schedule? What if there was correlation between the weather, the day of the week and use of certain public resources? What if we could build smart cities that automated or improved services it provided? While these situations may not sound exciting, think of the savings of taxpayer dollars and the impact on our environment.
Now take it to a smaller level such as the healthcare industry. Imagine if Big Data analytics could comb through all the healthcare records (with personal information redacted) to determine patterns of illnesses, and diagnoses? Imaging if this allowed healthcare professional to recognize illness earlier before they became more serious and more expensive to treat? What if we could use health tracker to scan against this same healthcare data to diagnose in real-time? Perhaps you’ve heard your doctor tell you that you need to exercise or you could be at risk for a heart attack? What if using healthcare data and a fitness tracker an analytics engine could alert you that you’re about to have a heart attack and prevent it before it happens? Yes this is a little out there, but the potential is there for so much to be gleaned from this digital exhaust. There’s a whole new frontier out there ready to be conquered. Are you up to the challenge?
~Stephen Clark, Director of Sales