Thursday, 26 December 2013

2014 Tech and Data Predictions

What a year 2013 has been. The smartphone culture is fully mature in the first world, with this year being the advent of the stripped down versions for developing countries and budget markets. Edward Snowden has sensationally brought privacy into the public spotlight, and it turns out that the conspiracy theorists were right!! It is at this time - between Christmas and New Year when I like to think about what will happen in 2014. Hold onto your hats, it's going to be a bumpy ride !!!!!

1. The mobile revolution continues
Although mobile telephone usage is peaking, 2014 will be the year when the wearable device becomes mainstream.  Google's glass (Smart glasses) and Samsung Galaxy Gear (smart watch) have been the innovators, but Apple is bound to be breaking into this with a brand new smart watch. With this new device (and Apple's brilliant N.L.P. marketing), I expect an explosion in wearable devices.

2. The internet of everything - not yet
While there have been some cars with internet connections, smart ovens, smart fridges and other ubiquitous devices in the home are still a long way off becoming mainstream. This is largely due to the old devices having a long operational life before they need replacing. 

3. The year of the personal cloud
As mobile and wearable devices become smaller and more personal, expect network hard drives and the building of personal clouds at home to be a central repository for all of your data. People will then be able to access their data via the internet, connecting to a VPN based in their home. Cloud service providers will suffer as the Snowden revelations in 2013 have driven cynicism about other people managing data for you.

4. In business, the analytics explosion continues
Business leaders will want to integrate more and more disparate data sources. This will drive the need for big data solutions. Wearable and mobile devices will transmit more and more useful location data. Visualisation techniques to overlay location data (and location movement information) with other metrics and measurements will need to be developed.

5. Big data moving out of IT and into business areas (almost)
Analysts will be able to utilise their SQL skills to analyse "big data" using arrays of computers. However, the preparation of the data so that it can be used in this environment will still have to be done by IT. Expect teething problems and delays with this approach. 

6. Analytic skills become even higher premium
As the demand for data analysis continued to expand beyond the job market's ability to deliver qualified people, 2013 saw a feeding frenzy with recruitment consultants poaching experienced staff across industries. With more and more analysts deciding to call themselves "Data Scientists", expect businesses to pay high prices for analysts in 2014, and even higher prices for the genuinely talented ones. As a result, 2015 will see solution providers receiving extreme pressure from business owners to simplify their solutions, and therefore drive down the future wage cost. 

7. Data management principles will continue to be ignored
Business owners will continue to ignore the fact that large proportions of their data is incorrect, and blame the data consumers and analysts for deriving 'incorrect' results. They will expect management information analysts to 'code around' data errors, rather than managing and fixing the data as an asset that is separate from the systems. In the end, this will cause problems when migrating over to newer and better technology (i.e. big data).

8. Governments - new privacy laws and more internet censorship (Addendum)
2014 predictions would not be complete without the fallout from the Snowden revelations. Governments will rush in draconian privacy regulations. Their security services will largely ignore these regulations and continue their surveillance programmes. However, private corporations will have to comply, choosing to pass any cost onto their customers. Expect more 'internet' related scare stories as governments seek more excuses to further restrict the flow of information between people, now that they have filter technology in place with all of the internet service providers.

Best wishes for peaceful, prosperous 2014. 

The Data Geek

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Here's wishing you all a happy, safe and peaceful Christmas this year. I hope all of your Christmas cards arrived at the right address and on time ;)

All the best,


Saturday, 21 December 2013

Who is driving your data management?

There was a time when all businesses really cared about was profit and process. We adhered to process, ticked the right boxes, kept the costs down, and collected our pay cheques at the end of the month. The customer was largely ignored and left to their own devices. Then as customers started selecting the best customer service, and as business management techniques improved, the customer became king. Delighting the customer was a mantra that pushed us on. But now something truly interesting is happening.

Our customers are becoming tech savvy.

First, it was businesses who insisted that we communicated electronically. But slowly the general public have become more and more knowledgeable about what computers are truly capable of. Now, almost everyone has a computer. The common user makes daily decisions about managing the applications and data on their personal smart phone, and whether they need cloud storage and backup strategies.

I have an application on my iPhone that allows me to match and merge duplicate contacts in the contacts application - all simply at the touch of a button.

We have all become data managers.

So these new tech savvy customers will naturally expect high standards of data management from the organisations that they do business with. We need to be ready. We need to know our data lineage, so we can plan and execute change successfully and swiftly. We need to optimise our data in every aspect of our business, so we can wring the last drop of value and opportunity from it. We need to know that "Jon Smith" who bought one product from us is the same person as "John Smith" who holds several more products.

Customer ignorance is no protection to businesses any more. Data accuracy and value needs to be the new mantra - because now our customers expect it.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Big data - a conceptual example

I recently took my children on a trip to Jodrell Bank. For those who do not know, it is a very old radio telescope observatory in Cheshire that was build by Sir Bernard Lovell.

Although Jodrell Bank is getting very old, and is being overtaken by space based telescopes like Hubble, it is still a shining example of ingenuity and science in action, and it still has a vital role, gathering information about pulsars around the galaxy.

If we consider that science is the collection of data, it is surely best to acquire the greatest amount of data possible. This is why telescopes got larger and larger - to catch more data. 

But science wants to collect so much more data than just one conventional telescope can manage. So what they have done is to stop building large telescopes like the Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank, and instead build arrays of smaller dishes.

An array is a set of radio telescopes that are controlled together and pointed at the same part of the sky. The information is collected from all of them and put together. Modern Big Data works like an array - because one large computer is just not good enough any more. Data has become too large, varied and complicated for it.

Big data solutions are arrays of computers that are joined together to process very large and complex data sets. They employ special hardware and software to ensure all of the work is shared across the computers in the array. The end result is that huge, complex data sets can be processed much quicker than before.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Tips on how to get on in Tech

You may be surprised to hear that I did not originally want to work in data or technology. In fact the idea of sitting at a desk for any length of time used to fill me with terror. When I did find myself working in an office, I gravitated towards technical roles because they interested me. Some people are not so lucky, and may find themselves having to do something they find difficult. Here are some tips to get you more proficient in the technical aspects of your role:

1.  The internet is your friend.
Believe it or not, whatever piece of technical equipment you may need to operate, there are forums somewhere on the internet, dedicated to people sharing knowledge. Join up and share your problems. There is a wealth of support out there.

2.  Cultivate a strong sense of curiosity
The great thing about tech people is they like to share their knowledge. If you have colleagues who are technically proficient, swallow your pride and ask them. Don't forget - there is no such thing as a stupid question. Ask, then shut up and let them tell you.

3.  Apply practically
An idea or concept is useless unless it can be put into practice. So if you learn something, look for ways in which it can be applied and implement them - before you forget it altogether.

4.  Don't be precious about your methods
You've learned a programming language or a package. It's a great sense of achievement. But technology is always on the move. New things come along all the time. Sometimes that means we need to discard old ways of doing things to improve. Tying yourself to one package may give you problems when industry changes direction.