Sometimes, keeping up with technology feels like juggling on a unicycle. The landscape is changing constantly, and whole new categories are popping out of the woodwork. Who could have predicted the success of the iPad? Do you know that Apple has already sold 55 million of them? It took 22 years to sell 55 million Macs, and they’ve sold that many iPads in less than two.

Many in IT are now focused on mobility solutions. Certainly, the implications of a mobile workforce are huge, in terms of lifestyle, productivity, security and human resources. Most people seem to love it, some are afraid of it, but love it or hate it’s here to stay.

Put cool applications, and fast networks together with mobile technology and you’ve got the consumerization of IT. People like their sexy new smart phones, and they expect your business apps to be just as engaging. Why wouldn’t they? They want slick, intuitive interfaces, and they want to bring their own devices to work. Who wants to carry two cell phones or even lug around a laptop anymore? Just give me my smartphone and a tablet and I’m good to go!

But there’s something else, which isn’t getting as much attention as it deserves. That’s the arrival of Big Data as a business driver. Big data refers to data sets that are so large they can’t be captured, managed, stored or analyzed with traditional database tools. And working with big data is a challenge on every level, from capture to storage and from analysis to visualization. The proliferation of wireless devices (as well as various kinds of Internet-aware gadgetry) is creating a tidal wave of raw data. In a world of Wi-Fi enabled refrigerators, we’re absolutely awash in the stuff. Large volumes of data are generated in many industries including transactional data, clickstream data from the Web, email, tweets, social network posts and data gathered from sensors monitoring the physical world. Data rates are doubling every 18 months, with a 300-fold increase in data volume predicted in this decade. Check out this Infographic, and you’ll get a sense of the big picture.

 

 

This data can generate tremendous value for businesses that are able to use it – to improve decision making, discover trends, customize services, and innovate new products and business models. The problem is that most businesses aren’t ready to manage this flood of data, much less do anything interesting with it. The potential is vast, when you think about what could be done with market analysis, trend spotting and research. For example, big data is a top three priority at Walmart. They’re using big data tools to sift through social network posts and anticipate spikes in demand (like the one they saw for juicers after Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead hit the Netflix video streaming service).

Big data will impact every industry, as well as education and government. In fact, the Federal government just announced a new research initiative here, with a budget of $200 million. The Feds think big data is where the future of computing lies.

Food for thought… What do you think is happening with big data now? Where do you think it’s going and how will that change the way you do business?