All Science & No Data Make for a Dull Toy


There is a new Occupy Wall Street situation. "Things!" Wall Street, including Goldman Sachs, is seeing things, as in the Internet of Things (infographic below). But, are enterprises ready to exploit the IoT and derive business value?

Enterprises are already thinking about an IoT-intensive future. For example, Verizon's chief data scientist spoke at the recent IoT World event about the big data analytics platform that they are building to capitalize on the IoT. Kshitij Kumar, who blogged about the speech, mentions how Verizon is understanding driver behavior from the billions of miles of data collected from "connected" vehicles. There are some interesting observations such as the homogeneity of driving behavior across model years in some makes versus others. But, as the author notes, it is unclear "how these observations could be converted into revenue."

Therein lies one issue. We may amass a treasure trove of data, but we may not be able to do more than play with it, as one would with a toy. What we really need is an ability to find patterns in the data that provide insights that illuminate the path to fruitful action.

Will data scientists lead us out of darkness?
According to the blog post, Ashok Srivastava, Verizonís chief data scientist "suggests that we need to leverage the resources out there and think broadly to build a data science team." But is data science all that is needed, and is the lack of data science talent the first thing that enterprises need to worry about?

The science is sound, no doubt. It is founded upon statistics, machine learning, and other proven disciplines. But what about the data itself? Thatís a whole different story. Itís a bit like Eliza Doolittle waiting for Professor Higgins to help her speak "proper English." We may need to teach our data to speak "proper business-ese." There will be lots and lots of it!

Data: lots of chocolate for me to eat
The worldwide data projections in the Goldman Sachs report shows data growing from under 10,000 exabytes in 2014 to four times that by 2020. Much of this growth will likely to be generated by sources that lie outside the edge of the enterprise, including the "things" like smart devices, sensors, and other gadgets that are already starting to pop up around us.

Surely, the volume, velocity, and variety of data that we talk about are not something to worry about? After all, the industry has been busy with all kinds of technology to throw at the problem.

Sure, our computers scream along at light speed, and our software can reduce everything that's thrown at us into little pieces and delegate the work to commodity hardware that crunches data effortlessly. But our enterprises include people too. We are a bit slower. Quite a bit. We are also somewhat unpredictable and unruly, unlike the computers we create. We bring mixed-up objectives and agendas, emotions, attachments to the past, and all the rest of the pleasure and pain associated with being human.

To make data science work, to set the technology humming, and to render the data enterprise-worthy, we need to somehow overcome human limitations to make wise decisions and take timely actions In the face of all this complexity. Fortunately, we have been working on a couple of basic disciplines.

Help us control ourselves. Help us think clearly
We have been talking about data governance for a few years now. At its core, it's nothing more than making us all behave in an effective manner to treat data as the corporate asset that it is, so that we get the business performance and value gains that are possible.

We also need a way to think through the complexity of the problem space and the solutions that donít seem to stop coming at us from vendors and technology innovators. Information architecture and planning are disciplines that can bring some method to the madness. Data governance and information architecture/planning are not new. Yes, as Led Zeppelin sang, the song remains the same, but we just need to learn to sing like Robert Plant. It requires discipline and hard work, just as it does to put the enterprise into data. Without good data, data science will be nothing more than a hack.

Do you think enterprises are ready for the data deluge? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please share in the comments field after the infographic.

(Image: Goldman Sachs)
(Image: Goldman Sachs)

Balaji Prasad, President, Eminnode

Balaji Prasad has 30 years of experience in IT leadership, centered around architecture, innovation, and business-technology alignment. After his most recent role as leader of the Enterprise Architecture Practice within Cognizant's Global Banking and Financial Services Practice, he is now President of his strategic technology advisory company, Eminnode LLC. He has been a CTO and chief architect supporting large enterprises such as EDS (now HP Enterprise Services), General Motors, OnStar, and The Hartford Financial Services. Prasad has led multimillion-dollar enterprise architecture and IT strategy programs, devised complex technical solutions in fast-changing and rapid-growth businesses, facilitated CEO-level innovation dialogues, and led globally dispersed teams in a matrixed onsite/offshore model. In addition, he is a published author, has patents in process, and speaks frequently at major industry conferences on many topics, including service-oriented architecture, the semantic web, nanotechnology, wireless/mobile, and speech recognition. He served on the advisory committee of the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) where he drove web standards, and he is a TOGAF9-certified architecture practitioner.

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Re: making use of the IoT
  • 10/16/2014 7:59:22 AM
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Agreed. Usability and ability to deliver something that is considered valuable are both important. And your point about the complexity is important too. People will run away from things that may even have value if there are painful side effects. I think discipline in planning and architecture is needed to drive simplicity and alignment to value.

Re: making use of the IoT
  • 10/16/2014 7:45:27 AM
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@Balaji Prasad, something to keep in mind though is that we've seen the IoT and datafication run into big problems already when they get too granular.  One example are all the health tracking apps/wearables that had a boom about a year ago and are already bursting because people lost interest quickly.  I'm sure many of them thought it would be something that they would make a part of their everyday life but it turned out to just be more noise than they were willing to deal with.  IoT is an area that I think we need to keep the KISS principle in the forefront.  Hype will only take a technology so far and no amount of hype will save a technology that people find annoying.

Re: making use of the IoT
  • 10/15/2014 8:37:09 AM
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@saneIT "Datafication of your life might be interesting for a month or two but eventually it just becomes more noise in a noisy world"

I think noise and clutter are unavoidable. Facebook is a great example of something that is often used to satisfy emotional wants such as vanity. Ringtones are another example. I agree with you that value lies in the simple things that make our lives easier and more productive. But lots of money will flow towards applicatons that have a more subjective kind of value. and ... don't we make mistakes, which sometimes take years to see as such? Fixing mistakes is also difficult when we build things on top of things that we already have invested in.

Re: making use of the IoT
  • 10/15/2014 7:47:51 AM
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I'm half joking here but, I hear FB is going to put 747 sized drones that can stay in the sky for years at a time to provide wireless internet access to remote parts of the world.  If they can do that why can't the railroads do something similar or even build towers big enough to get cellular communications out to those remote areas?  I don't doubt that some of these ideas have been brought up, I just wonder what keeps them from building out a better communications network. 

Re: making use of the IoT
  • 10/15/2014 7:42:57 AM
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We as a society have become very good at spinning up the hype engine and letting it go.  Attention spans are shorter and memories seem to be getting shorter as well.  Many of us will remember the dot com bubble because we lived it.  I know I rode it right to the top and luckily didn't have a big fall but how many people on the street could tell you what happened and why?  IoT is a very cool concept and I can see a lot of hype around it because start ups need funding, but as I mentioned I think the real differences will be made at a utility type level.  Datafication of your life might be interesting for a month or two but eventually it just becomes more noise in a noisy world.  The trick will be quietly shaping the world around us without getting in the way.

Re: making use of the IoT
  • 10/14/2014 8:45:42 AM
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Good point about "what people want" vs what they need. The IT groups certainly learned that with the BYOD movement.

Re: making use of the IoT
  • 10/14/2014 8:31:44 AM
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@SaneIT, Good point. The hype does create inflated expectations and can actually slow down application ideas and adoption, as people start to become more skeptical about everything in the hyped-up space. We've seen this many times before, including with the dot-com.

Re: making use of the IoT
  • 10/14/2014 8:28:28 AM
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@Jamescon, Exactly. I think many of us are like this. And that's why the theory of what "value" is, and the reality of what it is (in the form of what people actually do) are sometimes quite different. We probably would not be drinking, eating and doing half the things we do, if we're really objective about value. So when we think about new technologies from a business perspective, we can't ignore what people may want, and that sometimes we may not know it until we see it.

Re: making use of the IoT
  • 10/14/2014 7:56:27 AM
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@Balaji. I'll plead guilty when it comes to tracking a package through FedEx or UPS. Do I really need to know that it's last known location was someplace in Texas? Nope. I do want to know that it's on schedule for the promised delivery time, but there is nothing I can do about it until it actually runs late.

So, why do I check? Because I can.

Why do I keep checking email by phone when I'm away from my computer for a half hour, even when I'm not expecting anything urgent? Again, because I can.

 

Re: making use of the IoT
  • 10/14/2014 7:51:04 AM
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@SaneIT. Right, the railroad knew that the sensors had to be ruggedized because of the elements. Even allowing for that, the sensors themselves weren't the issue, it was the communications aspect. That's where they faced the real challenge. I'm not sure how they plan to deal with that.

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