The sheer volume of data now available to organizations, businesses and consumers is unprecedented. Computers, smartphones, fitness trackers and other devices, along with the Internet of Things, are generating torrents of information that can help solve the thorniest problems while unlocking new opportunities. The challenge is to turn all that data into knowledge that can be used by C-suite and line of business managers to make faster, smarter decisions.
Some companies are leading the way. In the utilities industry, recent breakthroughs in sensor data analysis are driving transformation at GE Power. The $28 billion unit of GE is combining 100 million hours of operating, maintenance and part-swap data with a terabyte of daily feed from each of its 1,700 sensor-equipped turbines, for an expected net $66 billion in savings in the next 15 years.
Law enforcement is another area where exploiting big data creates new insights. The Durham, N.C., police department can now combine visualization of historical data and relationships across people, places and other entities to create an “intelligent” database. The department has become much smarter about how to allocate resources, reducing violent crime in a two-square-mile region of the city by more than 50 percent in four years.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty calls big data “the new natural resource.” Big Blue has married its Jeopardy-winning AI platform Watson, which runs on IBM Power Systems, to some of its most sophisticated analytics software to create Watson Foundations, which combines a range of hardware and software into a powerful big data platform. IBM’s analytics environment also includes data warehousing and content management tools and applications for decision management, business intelligence and planning and forecasting.
More than 75 percent of companies surveyed by Gartner plan to increase investment in big data technologies over the next two years. “As big data becomes the new normal, information and analytics leaders are shifting focus from hype to finding value,” said Gartner research director Lisa Kart.
Big data as a mindset
The digital universe more than doubles every two years. From 4.4 trillion gigabytes in 2013, it is expected to grow to 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020. Fueling the deluge are inputs from a mind-boggling array of sources, including sensor data from inexpensive, ubiquitous networks feeding the Internet of Things.
The central challenges for businesses until now have involved capturing, assessing and analyzing big data. Securing the human, technological and financial resources to develop infrastructure, analytics models and support systems for big data exploitation has been the key task. Now, entirely new challenges and opportunities are emerging.
“The fact that we can derive more knowledge by joining related information together and spotting correlations can inform and enrich numerous aspects of everyday life,” said Tim Smith, a physicist and group leader of CERN’s collaboration and information services.
The result is an explosion of possibilities. Results range from real-time use in commuter traffic and finance through short-term applications in medicine and meteorology as well as general business and marketing.
XO Communications, a New York City-based telecom and internet services provider, sought ways to reduce customer churn. It turned to IBM’s SPSS software for predictive modeling to identify at-risk accounts. XO credits the effort with reducing churn among smaller customers by eight percent in the first year and 18 percent in the second, with total savings of about $3.8 million per year.
The healthcare industry is using big data to improve patient outcomes, but faces some sizeable challenges. Patient monitoring equipment alone generates some 2.3 trillion gigabytes of data every day. Pharmaceutical research, clinical information, cost data and patient behavior information must be reconciled with social media, machine-to-machine transmissions such as pacemaker feeds, transactional cost reports, biometrics and emails.
But efforts are paying off. Healthcare providers are leveraging big data to identify outcome variations and disease predictors from the analysis of electronic health records. They are also evaluating revenue cycles and targeting processes for optimization.
Performance as a new product
Companies worldwide are reaping the benefits of big data, including key, emerging markets like China. For example, SLLIN is a Hong Kong-based web services provider and operates a streaming music app, Hands in the Air, which connects local artists with listeners, collaborators and marketers.
SLLIN previously ran the app off a distributed architecture with numerous servers. But that environment couldn’t keep up with user demand. “Streaming music is pointless without the processing power to handle it,” said SL Ho, head of IT at SLLN.
To bolster performance, the company consolidated its infrastructure onto IBM Power Systems. The new systems are not only meeting current demand, they’re also paving the way for growth into new markets—including mainland China, Singapore, Europe and the United States. “As we add more users, we need to be able to quickly scale to support this growth,” Ho said.
Companies are reimagining the value of their business models. The transformation begins with smart infrastructure that enables smarter use of big data.
Learn more about how IBM Power Systems can help your company thrive with big data.