Chris Stakutis, IBM's CTO for emerging storage software, says all businesses are confronting three major tech trends: the phenomenal growth of data; the proliferation of wireless connectivity; and the rise of XML, or self-describing data.
He's coined a term for the result. Stakutis calls it "inescapable data." He even wrote a book about it, Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence. I spoke with him this week about the book and the business implications of "data everywhere" and "wireless everywhere." Stakutis wasn't short on examples of industries leveraging this convergence to change the way business is done. One area is farming.
"Big farms looking for ways to boost efficiency are using tractors outfitted with GPS, so that they can track perfectly as they plow fields…. A person does not have to steer it, and it can be done at night. So you now double the amount of work hours that that field can be worked," he said. "But that's just technology, its not quite inescapable data yet."
"Now what also occurs in the same John Deere tractor line, is the harvester machine makes yield calculations for every scoop it makes as it is harvesting. Then, combined with GPS, it means you know exactly what the yield was per square meter for the farm. At the same time, the tractor also tastes the soil for its chemical content to determine its fertilization needs perfectly per square meter," Stakutis described.
"The last kicker is that all this data is Wi-Fi'd back to the operations center on the farm -- and then extended to the trading floor of the commodities/futures exchange, where traders can see in real-time what the yield is at the farm in addition to what they traditionally knew, which was only what was in the silo," Stakutis explained. "If you don't have that level of connectivity in your business then you are not going to compete anymore."
None of this convergence was possible even a few years ago, because technology was not at the right price point, Stakutis said. "Manufacturers can now easily drop a Wi-Fi chipset into their products and, without any engineering, allow the mass population to provide the value and create the acceleration."
"There are going to be utilities and efficiencies forthcoming that you would not pay more for now, but they're going to be there anyway. And they're going to be so cheap and valuable that they will materialize," he said.
When asked what businesses could do to harness the power of convergence, Stakutis replied that preparing for the rise of video-data is going to be increasingly important for many types of companies. Retail is primed to jump into video data, since most stores already have cameras installed to thwart theft. "What people want in the new world is better knowledge about buying behavior … cheap cameras and cheap processing has made it affordable to now watch it." He listed ShopperTrak as a vendor at the beginning stages of this kind of functionality. One good question: how will customers react to this invasion of privacy?