Written By Christian Morales, Vice President and General Manager Europe, Middle East and Africa, Intel Corporation
We’ve never had more information coursing through our businesses. Data presents an unprecedented opportunity to make better decisions and be more responsive to customers, suppliers and markets. It can be overwhelming, though. Many companies struggle to make sense of it, and to turn those pulsing zeroes and ones into something they can use. Companies estimate that they are “analysing only 12% of the data they already have, leaving 88% of it on the cutting-room floor”, according to Forrester.
The rapid growth of data is set to continue, driven in part by the Internet of Things (or IoT). This is a significant transformation in our world that is seeing a growing number of Internet-connected devices that can network and communicate with each other and the cloud. As the number of connected devices increases, so does the constant stream of data into businesses. For the first time, many organisations will have visibility into the furthest corners of their infrastructure, into customer and citizen behaviour, and into resource use, all in real time. According to the European Commission, “Economically, it [IoT] could generate billions of Euros that easily translate into growth and employment, provided it ensures trust and security for the European citizens and businesses.”
Indeed, if businesses are to make the most of this data it is going to be important to secure it and to use it appropriately and within the bounds of good privacy practices. When devices are connected, they may potentially become targets for cyber attacks. It is essential that security is built-in at every layer, from the hardware, through the operating system, and into the security software, to ensure that the infrastructure is secure.
One of the biggest challenges will be to keep pace with the growth in data, so companies can make the most of its potential. Gartner estimates that by 2020, 26 billion units will be installed on the Internet of Things. Those units will generate a huge amount of new information that businesses will need to grapple with.
With data volumes high and accelerating fast, the old approach of storing everything for analysis later is no longer tenable. Data is highly perishable, and competitive advantage will come to those who can analyse it fastest. Real-time data streams will require real-time analysis.
That’s becoming possible now, thanks to the latest advances in technology, including server architectures, solid state storage devices, and in-memory analytics solutions. These technologies put the data and the analytics application into memory, rather than store it on disks. With no moving parts, it will be possible to achieve performance that is up to 148 times faster, transforming an organisation’s ability to understand what is happening right now.
That ability delivers huge returns anywhere where time is of the essence. In transport, for example, authorities could monitor traffic flows across wide networks, correlate that with events calendars and social media data, and predict where jams are starting to form. Diversions can be managed accordingly, resulting in a better experience for travellers, and less pollution from cars stuck in stagnant traffic.
In healthcare, diagnoses can be made more quickly, based on more diverse sources of information, to ensure faster more effective treatment in the intensive care unit. On a wider scale, epidemics can be identified and managed more quickly by correlating healthcare data with information from unstructured sources such as social media. Society can benefit from better quality of life, and healthcare providers can plan to more effectively use their limited resources.
Retailers might in the past have analysed their daily sales data to refine their prices overnight. Using real-time analytics, they can understand sales and competitive prices for every product minute by minute, and use that information to plan their prices, purchasing and supply chain. As a result, they can be more responsive to local trends, maximise the market opportunity and minimise waste. The World Bank estimates that between one-quarter and one-third of all food produced for human consumption globally is either wasted or lost. Retailers can play a part in tackling this problem by managing their supply chains more effectively, in real time.
In financial services, real-time analysis can help to fight fraud. As transactions take place, a credit card issuer could compare the transaction with typical spending patterns to identify suspicious behaviour. It could look for spending patterns that are strong indicators of fraud, such as large jewellery or electronics purchases shortly after a low-value test purchase and block those transactions. This helps to protect banks, but also helps merchants, many of them small businesses, who would have carried some of the loss. In the long run, it also protects cardholders who are less likely to have their card data stolen if it is likely to be useless.
One example that illuminates how business processes can be transformed by real-time analysis is given by Provimi, a company that makes animal food. Its profitability analysis report used to take 10 hours to generate, covering 2 years of data. Using in-memory analysis, it’s able to call up the report in 2.4 seconds. The company can use the very latest demand forecasts to make purchasing decisions in real time, to reduce wastage and optimise their supply chain. Other companies have experienced similar improvements in their supply chain agility. One automobile manufacturer was able to cut the query response time for its data warehouse from 20 minutes to 45 seconds, to provide real-time insight into customer demand and the supply chain.
Pirelli has realised the potential of the Internet of Things by adding sensors to its tyres. Its Cyber Fleet tyre monitors information such as the tyres’ pressure and temperature. That information is available to the driver in real-time using a device in the vehicle, but perhaps most importantly fleet operators can monitor all their vehicles remotely to plan preventative maintenance. Fuel savings from the intelligent tyres can amount to up to 1000 Euros per year, Pirelli says, because correct tyre pressures reduce rolling resistance. There is also reduced wear on the tyre, and lower staff costs checking tyre pressures. For fleet operators, fuel and tyres are a significant cost. Reducing consumption also benefits society by reducing pollution and waste.
As these examples show, real time insight can transform businesses, governments and other organisations. For companies pushing for competitive advantage, historical analysis will soon be too late. Everybody can know the past, but those who use real-time analytics will define the future.
About the Author
Christian Morales is corporate vice president and general manager of Intel Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). He is responsible for Intel product sales and marketing in the EMEA region.
Morales has held senior international management roles in sales, channel operations and general management. He brings extensive experience in marketing and building brand awareness for new product segments, as well as a strong background in expanding and driving Intel’s business into new and emerging markets. Morales has been based in Paris, Madrid, Sao Paulo and Hong Kong and had joined Intel in 1980 in Paris as an Intel field sales engineer
Morales graduated with an electrical engineering degree from the Electricity, Mechanics and Electronics Engineering School in Paris. In 1990, he completed the Young Managers Program in the MBA program at INSEAD.