How will smart data create more efficient businesses

Given the rise of connected things, IDC predicts that the world will generate 163 zettabytes (ie. 1 trillion gigabytes) of data a year by 2025. This poses a major challenge to organizations: how should they effectively manage that tsunami of data to optimize their business? Fortunately, we foresee data changing in three ways that will make it easier for organizations to do so.

#1 – Data will have a life of its own

Data management at this point requires a dedicated team to oversee its movements, manage it, as well as to protect it. As data becomes self-aware and even more diverse than it is today, the metadata will make it possible for the data to proactively transport, categorize, analyze and protect itself. Using contextual information, self-aware data can also independently determine who is authorized to access, share and use it, leading to enhanced privacy, data protection and governance. 

Singapore’s digital vault, MyInfo, is one example of self-aware data. With MyInfo, residents provide their personal data – such as their name, identification number and monthly household income – once. Thereafter, they can get those details automatically filled in online forms whenever they apply for financial services by logging into their government-issued accounts (ie. SingPass) and clicking on the ‘Retrieve MyInfo’ button. This pilot initiative has shortened the transaction time while improving the participating banks’ operational efficiency, as it removed the need for banks to manually verify personal details when processing application forms.

#2 – Data will help connected devices make critical decisions quickly

In most cases, a connected device will send the raw data it collects to a centralized data warehouse for processing before the actionable insight is sent back to the device. A network congestion, which is plausible given the sheer size and speed of data from connected devices, can have serious implications in cases where the device needs to quickly make a critical decision. To overcome this, data needs to be processed and analyzed directly at the point where it is generated.

For instance, Malaysia has equipped traffic lights in Cyberjaya with closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) featuring video analytics to address traffic congestions. The CCTVs collect data and analyze it before dynamically adjusting the green period for each traffic light. Since the cameras can also connect remotely with each other, the adjacent traffic light is aware of its neighboring junctions, resulting in an optimized traffic flow.

#3 – Data will help streamline processes

Given the volume and complexity of data generated in future, we expect organizations to increasingly use blockchain to manage and protect their data. Since blockchain stores data across computers that constantly verify information with each other and records every change made to the shared information, it ensures transparency and data integrity, which could in turn help streamline processes.

India’s State Bank plans to roll out a blockchain-based solution that will soon enable 27 banks to enhance their know-your-customer (KYC) process. With this solution, a customer’s details that prove their identity will only need to be verified by a bank once. Thereafter, other banks and accredited institutions can retrieve that immutable and traceable customer information when onboarding that client, instead of carrying out another KYC process. This makes compliance more efficient and reduces cost – the latter is a major benefit, as Accenture found that 23 percent of financial institutions spent more than five percent of their net income on compliance in 2016.     

While the above examples focused on financial services and public sector, other data-driven industries such as manufacturing, healthcare and retail will also benefit from smarter data.

Let’s imagine we’re in a supermarket that uses shelves fitted with sensors to monitor the quantity and age of perishable items. Since data is processed at the smart shelves and is self-aware, the shelves will automatically notify suppliers to replenish inventory as soon as the stock goes below the threshold or nears the expiry date. Having a just-in-time inventory and eliminating the need for manual stocktaking will enable the supermarket to save on storage costs and deploy employees to higher value tasks. To further improve productivity, the supermarket can use a blockchain-based vendor financing system to digitize and automate the process of paying their suppliers.

IDC found that data-driven organizations experienced three times increased profitability in the past three years. With data expected to be self-aware, analyzed at the edge (ie. connected device) and leveraging blockchain in the future, it will become easier for organizations to optimize their operations. 

For businesses looking for that extra edge, knowing how to utilize data will be key to thrive in an age where data is expected to be the most valuable resource. Organizations need to make sure they understand the new characteristics of data and know how to use it to their advantage if they want to become successful in the digital age – or risk getting left behind.

Rick Scurfield is President of NetApp Asia Pacific