The incorporation of mobile devices into day-to-day life has changed our culture significantly. When Apple introduced “iPhone” less than a decade ago, Steve Jobs famously said, “It’s like your life in your pocket.” Now only eight years after the launch of the first iPhone, it is hard to remember what life was like before you had a full-function information system in the palm of your hand. We have all come to rely heavily on these devices, which as a result is driving mobile profits up and creating a market that didn’t even exist a short time ago.
So what is the next “big” thing? Is it another piece of hardware? Software? Practice? To find what’s next many experts are focusing on newly available data and information. Ironically, it is becoming evident that information itself is actually the next “big” thing.
The “Big” Data
In this new age of individualism largely fueled by mobility, the average person uses (and creates) an enormous amount of data - more than the two-to-five gigabytes that you get with your standard mobile phone data plan. As of May, global IP traffic had increased 500 percent over the past five years and was at nearly one billion gigabytes per year. This number is expected to increase by 100 percent over the next five years to about 2 zettabytes per year. To put that in perspective, a zettabyte can hold 36,000,000 years of HD video... yesyears.
The ramifications of such a huge cultural move are still developing. Mobile devices, once looked at as “cool” gadgets, are now the predominant form of computing in the world (having just surpassed PC computing in worldwide data usage). People that use smartphones don’t just lug it around to make calls, they are constantly accessing the Internet, social media and other applications. This is creating a new world of user data, which is being mined, packaged and sold to advertisers and other organisations such as governments, who are in turn using it to offer better targeted products and services.
Everything Will Be Connected
We are not far off a world where everything you come into contact with is connected to the Internet. According to Gartner, nearly 26 billion separate devices will be on the Internet of Things by 2020. Every device that is connected to the IoT will produce data. Whether it is a refrigerator that can automate grocery delivery or a dog collar that measures the health and activity of your pet, the underlying theme inherent in every Internet-connected device will be that relevant data is recorded for analysis. Some believe that this is going to do wonders for teaching us the preexisting beliefs we have about certain types of people aren’t necessarily right; producing a world where (unlike the pop / tabloid culture we currently have) facts supersede opinions in mainstream popular 'news'.
Where Does This Leave Users?
According to Mckinsey Global Institute, data brokers like Acxiom, fuel an industry worth £200 billion a year by selling off the data they collect. This information usually includes the users’ name, gender, age and ethnicity. In a profile of the company by The New York Times, Acxiom claimed to have information on approximately 500 million people including, “nearly every U.S. consumer”. So whether we like it or not, most of our sociological traits, search results, purchasing history and even browsing history, is being mined for valuable information.
Interestingly some of the same analytical methods that are being used to formulate user marketing profiles, are being used to advance high-end technologies like artificial intelligence. In what industry professionals call deep learning, software algorithms are written to have computers perform high-level thought and abstraction. These algorithms can take core data and analyse it through a very specific construct to get a visual representation. Since there is so much data to consider, a graphic representation of the data is provided for analysis to help demonstrate the aspects of the information that could be valuable.
It seems that your information may just be the one of the most important variables in your business’ future. But can big data can really help connect the dots for your business, or bring about positive societal change? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.