IBM VP: Big data, analytics giving way to 'social economy'

IBM's vice president of emerging technologies discusses big data and the next big trends in social analytics during Social Media Week in San Francisco.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Early and direct customer engagements to iterate on both the technology and business value, according to Rod Smith, vice president of Emerging Technologies at IBM.

Essentially, that means that which social media channels customers use now and how often the use them have significant impacts on business going forward.

"The web is all about data nowadays," Smith affirmed at a keynote during Social Media Week on Tuesday morning, explaining that people want to use analytics for tracking information regarding every industry, and that visualization of this data is a big part of it.

Smith's IBM unit examines innovations and collaborations in technologies that researchers hope garner broad industry adoption in a 12 to 18-month timeframe.

He outlined three focus areas for IBM's Emerging Technologies department: big data, automated sentiment analysis and mobile.

Smith cited that every minute, approximately 600 new blog posts are published and as many as 34,000 tweets are sent.

Thus, big data (defined as a "mixture of structured and unstructured content") is growing at a compound annual growth of 60 percent per year. Smith asserted that Twitter processes 7TB of data everyday, while Facebook processes 10TB at the same rate.

"Businesses want the ability to uncover business insights and events from any and all relevant data sources," Smith posited.

Smith also pointed towards a recent survey of 2,100 companies conducted by the Harvard Business Review, which found 66 percent of these businesses either currently use social media channels or have social media plans in the works.

Yet less than 23 percent are using social media analytics, and only five percent are using some form of sentiment analysis.

Smith advised that timely actionable insights and events integrated into business systems will be a key success factor.

"To make that much content happen every single minute, mobile apps are really setting the bar for us," Smith said.

One of the enablers for social media analytics for big data is that the cost of hardware continues to decrease while computer power goes up. Open source projects like Hadoop, Cassandra, and others are forming platforms for big data solutions.

As an example of where social media and the need to handle big data is headed, Smith referenced the earthquake that rattled Virginia and most of the Eastern Seaboard last August.

While it took the U.S. Geological Society at least 20 minutes to generate an earthquake alert, Twitter already saw a flood of tweets emerge within seconds of the actual event -- at a peak of 5,500 tweets per second.

"I think we've just scratched the surface," Smith explained, "Business are just now realizing what they need to be doing in this. I think they're challenging lots of us to create more solutions here."

Smith concluded, "Analytics is going to continue growing, but we're not going to call it analytics but rather applications."


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