Big Data: we have the technology, but not the vision

Big Data's big questions, explored in a chat with Todd Walter, CTO of Teradata.

There's been plenty said about how the power of data analytics will drive efficiency and new opportunities for today's and tomorrow's organizations. However, there's one catch -- most organizations don't know what to do with all the data they are gathering -- and most are doing nothing with it, yet.

That's the view of Todd Walter, CTO of Teradata and data analytics visionary. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Walter at last week's Teradata Partners conference in San Diego, who talked about the sensor explosion occurring underneath our feet, as well as emerging analytics-driven organizations.

"The thing that will really explode over the next few years, over the next decade, is sensor data," he explains. Perhaps the biggest revolution in analytics is coming from sensor data that is becoming part of every aspect of our society -- from transportation to energy to entertainment. "You know how many sensors are in your car?" He asks.  The problem is "right now data is being thrown on the floor," he says.

When that day comes, and organizations figure out how to pull this data together, the magic will happen, he predicts, "there will be a point when manufacturers will want the data back. They will be able to analyze and diagnose problems, and improve product designs."

Sensors are everywhere. Some municipalities are now even "building roads with sensors in each slab of concrete," he adds. This enables engineers to track wear and tear and identify areas that will need repair.

Another area being disrupted as a result of sensors is the utility industry. "Utilities are scared to death right now," he comments. They're aren't scared because consumers will be able to track and regulate their own energy usage, or that there will be bi-directional management of appliances in households. The problem, Walter says, is the overwhelming volumes of data that utilities now have to contend with. "Utilities will soon have three orders the magnitude of data than they ever operated with before."

It's going to take some time before most organizations are able to act on the potential offered by all the data now being collected, he says. The ability to actually compete on analytics is still limited to a few cutting-edge companies.

Achieving value from the data piling up with enterprises requires "vision," Walters adds.  Right now, when it comes to Big Data, more vision is needed, as organizations start to learn what data they have.

(Cross-posted at SmartPlanet Business Brains.)