Welcome to the Insight Economy

How Big Data and The Internet of Things Will Change IT

The day will soon come when every digital interaction we have, every appliance we use, every product we buy and potentially every medication we take will be a data point. It’s commonly referred to as the Internet of Things, or IoT. Depending who you ask, in the year 2020 there will be between 25 billion (says Gartner) and 50 billion (says Cisco) internet-enabled devices, and all of them will constantly create data.

Every item we buy, every trip we take using GPS, and potentially every heartbeat will be documented by these devices. Combined with advanced technologies like smart energy grids, it’s clear that our data creation will continue exponentially.

The question then becomes, ‘what do we do with all that data?’ This is the point where our information economy turns into an insight economy; when we start to integrate data-based solutions into our business decisions. With the deluge of insight into real-world trends and statistics, businesses will be able to target buyers more effectively, manufacturers will be able to adapt and upgrade products or services as quickly as consumers can consume them, financial institutions will be able to better predict market and consumer behavior and doctors will be able to diagnose patients remotely. We can’t predict all the ways big data will change commerce and business, so the most important things are to stay up-to-date on best practices and to have a workforce that can use these tools to meet your goals.

Whether it concerns the most efficient route to deliver electricity to homes or the ideal layout for a department store, sifting through the data will require a whole new generation of IT professionals skilled in creating data analysis programs. If we extrapolate the breadth and value of this data, we may begin to think of IT departments as forecasters of consumer behavior, much in the way today’s market research tactics give us similar insights. By cataloging and analyzing an immense set of data points specific to a company’s customers, that company will be able to enact programs to streamline operations, alter product pricing and improve customer service initiatives. Amazon, for instance, is known to use dynamic pricing, where some products have daily cost variations or even display different prices for different customers based on their purchase histories.

With the growing accumulation of data we will be able to quickly answer specific questions that were previously impossible, such as how small, localized weather events affect energy usage or if a certain demographic is more likely to travel soon after their friends return from vacation. Clearly there is opportunity for huge technological, societal and behavioral changes, and ensuring these are available, accessible and safe to use falls on the shoulders of IT professionals.

As we increasingly rely on mobile devices and online accounts for financial transactions, communication and storing our personal information, the security of all our data remains critical. In 2014 Gartner discussed software-defined security, big data security analytics and endpoint threat detection and response as some of the top digital security trends. Securing the internet of things was also on the list, and that point will continue to grow in importance as more devices become internet connected. The SANS Institute, a top IT training organization, named 20 different IT security careers from Network Penetration Tester to Malware Analyst to Vulnerability Researcher that are important today and will continue to grow in importance in the coming years.

Every consumer app will need stronger security, just as public utilities, retailers and banks will need stronger security. Between retina scanners, fingerprint scanners, multi-step passwords and location-aware security measures, we are entering a much more complex era of information security. If the public and the business community can learn to truly trust that their information is safe and their lives are better for sharing that data, then the sky is the limit.

What all of this means for IT professionals and IT organizations is that they will need to be able to adapt quickly in both size and skills. The use of contingent workforce will continue to grow as companies large and small develop and capture more data, test new strategies and create stronger security protections. The biggest value of a contingent workforce may be the ability to quickly find people with the specific skill set required for some new initiative, whether it be analyzing new types of data, protecting new networks or data sources, or developing algorithms to create new data. The insight economy promises to make IT one of the most important careers in the 21st century.