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Standing on the edge of a data revolution

The Internet of Things is a concept that we’re really just beginning to understand. It offers a myriad of opportunities – and a wealth of challenges. Once M2M communications become embedded into everything from taxi cabs to soda bottles the volume of data generated will outstrip anything – possibly even everything – we have seen before.

According to Gartner the Internet of Things will include 26 billion units by 2020. That is a phenomenal amount of connections and data to manage and store. One thing seems certain – this can only be good news for the data center community. Again, Gartner says that by 2020 Internet of Things product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue in excess of $300 billion just to help enterprises manage the flood of data that the world will generate.

While I can’t help be amazed by the sheer numbers here I also can’t help wonder what we’re going to do with all this data.  What is the end goal of having massive amounts of raw information from such a vast array of devices? What are the leaps that this amount of data is going to generate? We’re standing on the edge of a true information revolution, one that will transform our ability to assess and analyse every facet of life – but are we ready to handle it?

I think there are some hard questions ahead for every business. What is it that businesses want to achieve from these unprecedented levels of access and information? What are the no go areas for us in retrieving and using information about our customers and our customer’s customers? How do we prevent information overload from preventing or making collaboration and innovation harder?

I believe that companies will struggle when they try to map their existing data architecture to the information flowing from the Internet of Things. They will need to plan for the deluge, taking time now to figure out what matters, what is relevant and what will shape the business they are in. This isn’t just a technology issue however, it’s about assessing and understanding what business they want to be in. Businesses are going to have to make choices about how they use the data they will get – just because you have data available doesn’t mean you’re in the data business after all.

For example what if next time you go to buy coffee your loyalty card not only gets you a discount but also records your calorie intake and transmits that to your doctor’s office, and then what if your doctor shared that information with your insurer – for a fee. And what if that insurer then offers you a reduction in your premium if you just kick that daily mocha habit you’ve been working on since college. All in your own interest of course. How would you feel about that coffee shop then?

When the Internet of Things truly comes to life businesses of all shapes and sizes are going to have to be clear about their purpose. Data can be seductive, it offers a wealth of possibilities, but companies need to focus on using data to create genuine opportunities that allow them to push the boundaries of their industry without losing sight of who they are.  That will require a new way of thinking and collaborating internally and with partners across industries. One thing I am sure of though – by 2020 we will all have a different relationship with data.

What opportunities do you think will be created by the data produced by the internet of things? Leave a comment below

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Vinod Kumar

Vinod Kumar

Managing Director and Group CEO Tata Communications

Vinod Kumar is Managing Director of Tata Communications Limited and CEO of Tata Communications Limited Group, part of the $96.79 billion Tata Group.

With over 20 years of experience in the global telecoms industry, Vinod has a track record in developing business strategies and creating fast growth organisations around the globe. He has been at the forefront of Tata Communications’ shift away from traditional network services towards managed services and, recently, cloud computing.

Known for his quick wit, he is also an avid polo player and art collector. He offers a unique take on global business that matches his passion for speed, competition and the arts.

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