Guest author Scott Amyx is founder and CEO of Amyx+McKinsey, a wearables and IoT (Internet of Things) strategy and execution agency.

The tech industry is no stranger to change, but the data derived from the IoT is taking disruption to a new level—sforzando

At IBM’s Insight conference last month, Bob Picciano, senior vice president of IBM Analytics, talked about the rise of the “cognitive business”, or an enterprise that engages with analytics to improve its customer relations, business processes, and decision-making capabilities. 

There are dueling predictions over how ubiquitous the Internet of Things will be, but most indicate that the marketplace will host between 50 and 75 billion connected objects by 2020, signaling novel challenges for hardware manufacturing and development. Software engineers, likewise, may need to completely revamp programs to better exploit the influx of data, while innovators need to wrestle with the changes wrought by analytics. 

IBM’s Insight event unfolded in light of this wave of disruption. The lineup of corporate presenters converged on the same message: Analytics is for everyone, and your viability in the marketplace depends on it.

Six takeaways from this year’s conference include:

Design Will Never Be The Same

Iterate, test, repeat: That’s the old way of problem-solving. It will continue, but it will now be supported by massive quantities of data. Data aggregation from diverse sources will form the foundation of everything, from prototyping and manufacturing devices to the way IT departments react to security breaches.

Data Will Inform Data

It’s snowing: Why not text your customers about a new movie they can stream online instead of trying to get them to go to the theater? New data sources will inform existing ones. Increasingly, corporations will partner to draw on and share available data—including data freely available from government, social, and media platforms—to create exhaustive snapshots of needs, correlations, and trends. At Insight, IBM announced an agreement with The Weather Company and Twitter to create more comprehensive consumer insights—and shortly followed it by buying The Weather Company’s digital assets.

Artificial Intelligence Will Drive More Personal Data Through Interactions

The most valuable data is often locked in our heads. As the interactive abilities of artificial intelligences improve, they’ll prove a key way of extracting this data from customers, employees, and citizens alike. IBM was showing off Watson at Insight, but many companies are rapidly developing AI technology to address a range of  issues—look at Facebook’s M, which responds to a variety of requests via its Messenger app. Natural language technologies are crucial to allow artificial intelligences to comprehend human speech and generate appropriate responses.

Predictive Maintenance Will Replace Break-Fix

IoT devices and sensors can highlight failing appliances or dangerous home conditions before they become serious issues. Whirlpool’s Laurent Borne noted that IoT sensors on commercial appliances can make a big difference in customer satisfaction. A leaky hose will immediately trigger a text message to your phone, encouraging you to get the problem fixed before the house floods. Ever pulled out an empty milk carton from the refrigerator? IoT sensors will make that a thing of the past, as the device will send a resupply list as soon as you run short.

Everyday Problems Will Get Massive Computational Power

Remember ENIAC? When the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer made its debut in the ’40s, it was used mostly to take the load off of humans who were trying to develop accurate firing tables—not answer their questions about the best new Tex-Mex restaurant. The most advanced systems have typically been used for addressing complex issues and had limited access. That era is over. Raj Singh, CEO of Go Moment, showed off his Ivy app, now used by more than 20 million consumers. Ivy is a virtual concierge service that not only helps guests quickly get what they want wherever they are staying, but it does it using Watson’s natural language API.

Cognitive Systems Will Shine A Light On “Dark” Data

Companies often have the opportunity to harvest and exploit enormous quantities of data, but they don’t, for a variety of reasons. This kind of data exists in unstructured forms; for example, companies may store call-center logs or archive sales emails for years without that information seeing the light of day. This so-called “dark data” isn’t just a missed opportunity—depending on what it contains, it may become a liability. As cognitive systems develop, more data will be captured, and the data we’re already capturing will be put to better use.

IBM’s Insight 2015 conference sounded off on the most important trends in data usage and management. It also served a wake-up call for developers, engineers, and tech leaders. As the Internet of Things alters the landscape of analytics, hardware design needs to change, software development requires novel approaches, and tech management must become more agile in order to realize data’s greatest benefits.   

Photo by betancourt