Data surrounds us. Cell phones, watches, appliances, televisions, tablets, thermostats, security cameras, cars, and even children’s toys are all connected to the Internet. We’ve even coined a phrase for them: Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The IoT not only touches our personal lives, it also encompasses our professional lives. One thing IoT devices all have in common? They produce and consume a surprising amount of data. Interesting fact: According to IBM, 35 Zettabytes of data will exist in our digital universe by 2020 (One zettabyte is defined as 1021. Or in terms that are slightly easier to comprehend roughly one billion terabytes.). From December 2016 up to the time of this writing, I have personally taken and saved 6,650 pictures from my phone to my personal OneDrive. If I spent five seconds looking at each one, it would take me nine hours, 24 minutes to view them all. I don’t know about you, but my longest binge picture viewing session to date lasted about two hours.
Here’s another example. Did you know you generate vast amounts of data every time you visit the mall? Tracking begins with the security cameras in the parking lot and continues as you connect your mobile device to hotspots, enabling the mall to construct digital, live, and historical maps of each customer’s whereabouts. How long did the customer stop at each store? What was the customer’s path? Was the customer alone? Who did the customer meet, and where? All this tracking is accomplished by correlating points out of the vast amounts of recorded data. We live in an age where storage is very affordable so all this data can be stored for as long as needed (or legally permissible, depending on local data governance laws).
But stored data is useless if not leveraged appropriately. By storing all this data (and the metadata that goes along with it) in a capable database such as Microsoft SQL 2017, we can integrate SQL 2017 with Hadoop and (what’s now called) Machine Learning Services. Applying Azure Machine Learning principles in combination with Microsoft SQL Server 2017 Reporting Services allows us to take advantage of Power BI’s rich reports, and report sharing, capabilities. As a result, unstructured data can be transformed into clear, actionable information. These data profiles of customers and their behaviors are commonly referred to as “digital stories.”
This information can be shared in real time, used for planning and market research, or to provide a cost difference per location. For store owners, the mall data mentioned above can be used to improve the accuracy of target marketing and/or inform changes to store layout and inventory placement, creating a richer, more productive shopping experience.
Everybody (in the developed world) has their own digital story. This digital story is what companies like Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. turn into profits while offering “free” services. Big retailers such as Amazon also leverage our digital stories to increase sales by improving the precision of their target marketing.
From a business perspective, all this data has great value. More data means more digital stories—making that data all the more valuable. Simply put, digital stories allow businesses to better understand customers and their needs. Have you ever had Amazon suggest something you found so compelling that you had to buy it? Have you received a follow-up call after a bad experience with a support line? This is all made possible by machine learning, data science and data analytics principles. Data Science and data analytics aren’t just the latest IT buzz but rather are an integral part of our automated future.
To reiterate, if you are a business, the key is to leverage all this data effectively. Simply collecting and collecting is not enough. You need to make the data work for you in ways that are safe and transparent for the consumer. As a consumer, be mindful that we all create data, everywhere we go—in the physical as much as the virtual world. While there’s no question these masses of data can (and do) enhance our lives in innumerable ways, it comes down to this: data is power. The company able to best leverage customer data to produce the most actionable insights will be rewarded with boosted sales, reduced costs, and the biggest competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Need help leveraging your organization’s data? Check out our analytics services or reach out. We’d love to get you started.