We might say that Big Data got its jumpstart when Larry Page and Sergy Brin helped develop an algorithm that found significantly more relevant results than their search engine rivals. Whilst the data was already there, waiting unknowingly for someone to drain it of its secret powers, its current potential had yet to be harnessed in any tangible way. The Google founders' experiment effectively opened the door for businesses to be able to gather game-changing competitive insight from their data pools, no matter how big or small.
Today, the Internet of Things has bust these pools of data wide open. It is collecting huge amounts of information from even the most tenuous of places and expanding Big Data's promise to reshape business and technology for good. In fact, last month The Economist hailed it the new oil of the 21st Century -- the heart of a fast-rising "new economy."
"Data is to this century what oil was to the last one: a driver of growth and change. Flows of data have created new infrastructure, new businesses, new monopolies, new politics and -- crucially -- new economics."
This statement followed on the heels of other gushed pronouncements of Big Data and its impact on the world. In 2011 McKinsey & Co. declared Big Data as "the next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity," citing hundreds of billions of dollars in value the effective harnessing of data could deliver. Algorithms can now predict when a customer is ready to buy their next beach holiday, a jet-engine needs servicing or even when a person is at risk of a disease. It truly is a phenomenon of this generation.
However, without wanting to rain on its star-studded parade, we do have to be wary of the facts. We have to bear in mind that even the big Big Data companies, the Clouderas and Hortonworks of this world, are struggling to make a sizeable profit despite the prediction of growth of the industry to US$92.2 billion by 2026. They are chucking a lot of money at their Big Data projects, they're even raising a ton of cash to fund themselves, but they don't actually appear to be profiting much. Like AI and other nascent technologies on the brink of greatness, perhaps we're not quite there yet. There is still much to be discovered and unearthed -- and that takes time.
As it stands, Big Data could create more problems for enterprises rather than solve them, drowning businesses in a sea of data that they're ill-prepared to understand or unsuited to use in the first place. Because, as IDG Research says (and quite frankly, nails it on the head) "abundant data by itself solves nothing."
As key players in the Energy environment, we know that seizing the potential of Big Data is essential for the evolution of the industry. Analytics can unlock a cleaner, more affordable, and more secure energy system by creating an intelligent Grid, for example. But while these analytics can power performance for better outcomes, there are still the rife and fundamental challenges, such as poor data quality and integration, fragmented use of analytics and patchy ownership of data, that can threaten any type of success.
The advice here is to start small. Starting small and scaling fast is probably the most sensible way to go about all projects, not just the Big Data ones. But brace yourself for hiccups too -- the Big Data landscape is changing at an incredible pace so be flexible and prepared for necessary overhauls and upgrades of strategy. According to a recent survey in the US, 73% of enterprises on the other side of the 'pond' plan to significantly invest in Big Data in the next couple of years but only a minority of these organisations could see a boost in revenue. We're sure it'll be the same in the UK and so we would suggest talking to the experts, scaling back ambitions and being patient while the technology evolves around us. And finally, don't be afraid to buck the trend. Perhaps Big Data just isn't for you.
To hear what our panel of experts has to say and for a chance to talk "shop," particularly with Djeevan M. Schiferli, innogy's Big Data Lighthouse Lead, join us at our event "Energy Revolution" on the 13th June during London Tech Week. Book your place at this link: https://londontechweek.com/event/energy-revolution-start-up-scale-up.
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