The Age of the Machines

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The Age of The Machines

Internet gurus think 2013 will usher in the Age of the Machines and the rise of Big Data. For many people it’s been the machine age for some time, but nevertheless here are some quotes from the Technology of Business annual look-ahead as reported on the BBC:

  • Gartner’s Steve Prentice: “…the internet of everything, delivering an accelerating flow of data and the consequent demand for advanced analytics.”
  • IFS’s Alastair Sorbie: …the ability to “predict demand using techniques such as collaborative and promotional forecasting means companies can quickly react to market conditions.”

Despite the potential for mining data, there’s a long way to go:

  • EMC’s James Petter: “Just 0.5% of the world’s data is being analysed.”
  • Microsoft’s Dave Coplin: “Data is going to become the lifeblood of all our activities.”

For businesses that sell online or have offline customer records there are, broadly, two types of useful data. One is the customer-specific data in their own systems, which is useful for understanding historic measures like purchase trends, inventory management and customer lifetime value (CLV); the other is data “out there” in consumers minds or on the Internet, which is useful for predictive purposes — about what people intend to do, not what they’ve already done. Consumers’ minds are notoriously fickle but the Internet can deliver precise measures of the aggregate behaviour of thousands or millions of users and even provide insights into their collective sentiment and intentions.

Machines on the Internet gather and process signals about consumer demand in real time, long before humans can, long before the focus groups and opt-in panels can be assembled. Small- to mid-sized companies don’t need complex data mining tools, vast data warehouses or costly subscription reports and analytics packages in order to be able to read and see what the machines read and see: they don’t need Big Data they need smart data.


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