By Catherine Duggan. The theme of the recent FutureScope event, organised by the Dublin Business Innovation Centre (Dublin BIC), was ‘Current Trends and Future Insights’.  It took place in the heart of Dublin in the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) on Tuesday 31st May 2016. In this article the impact of data analytics and the cloud are explored.

Data Analytics, the Cloud and the Sky

Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer (a title he joked about) Microsoft brought energy and humour to the stage when he presented the topic of Data Analytics.  He began by encouraging the audience to:

“Smother yourself with data, but be careful.” Dave Coplin, Microsoft

He gave interesting insights about Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Rise of the Machine. He threw the spotlight on what he called the ‘Digital Deluge’ that we are now experiencing and how it’s distracting us.  He spoke about the power of machine learning, algorithms and how we can harness them to our benefit.

An example he gave was how people communicating with each other through different languages will be able to understand each-other in real-time using translation technology working seamlessly in the background.  He envisioned a drop down menu where people can select whatever language they wish to use to translate and communicate. He joked at the possibility that his young son may never need to study a foreign language in the future.

Dave also highlight that key technologies are already changing how we interact, and behave.  He emphasised the importance of embracing and handling these changes by becoming more inclusive and respectful in our behaviour and relationship with others.  He warned of the dangers of ‘Creepy Valley’ data analytics e.g. over personalisation of data.

“Remember, computers are useless. They can only give your answers.” Pablo Picasso

Dave Coplin’s response to this quote was:

“The future belongs to data only if humans ask the right questions.” Dave Coplin

Stephen Kruger, IBM spoke about the huge amounts of structured and unstructured data that is being generated in today’s data intensive environment.  He explained that IBM have invented concepts and approaches, i.e. Cognitive Computing to make sense of this data, which can then be accessed and used by  different industries such as fashion, healthcare and many others. A recent example he presented was in the fashion world.

In May of this year the supercomputer IBM Watson was teamed up with fashion house Marchesa to create a cognitive dress.  IBM Watson trawled though hundreds of images and data supplied to it by the fashion house, as well as psychological input about colours and mood. The end result was a dress that had the ability to change colour according to mood, and was in keeping with the best of Marchesa’s unique designs and colour pallets.

Stephen pointed that that other industries such as healthcare and food are benefiting from this supercomputer technology, e.g. IBM Watson Health and Chef Watson.

“There is not a single industry which is not facing compete upheaval in their traditional business. This creates significant opportunity for any company who can make sense of the chaos.” Stephen Kruger, IBM

John Hurley, CTO Ryanair then took to the stage and shared his own view on big data. He surprised the audience by saying:

“Do not do big data, it‘s wank.” John Hurley, Ryanair

He added, that in his opinion big data is confusing, expensive and difficult to store.  His advice was to start with small data by doing small projects, and then proving the value of this data.

The question then is what is the difference between big and small data? Big data is about discovering mutual relationship or connection between structured and unstructured data.  Small data is very different, it’s about finding the ‘cause’ or the ‘why’ and reacting to it.

Ryanair’s mantra now is “Always getting better.” It’s achieving this goal by listening to the feedback from customers, and reacting to it. By using small data to improve its offering Ryanair has become more agile and can adapt quicker and  better to its customer’s needs.

“There is a very smart talent pool of IT people and a broad mix of companies in Ireland today. If we can build a culture where we cross pollinate ideas and opportunities, the possibilities are endless.” John Hurley, Ryanair

The key insights and takeaways from the topic Data Analytics, the Cloud and the Sky are that in order to reap the benefits from both big and small data a balance needs to be struck. Big data can generate answers to questions using correlation and supercomputers, e.g. IBM Watson. Small data’s function is to try to find the ‘cause’ and asks the question ‘why’, Ryanair.

However, let’s not forget the importance of the human connection here. John Coplin, Microsoft advised us to embrace the benefits of technology, to change our current behaviour and interaction with it. By doing this it will allow us to reap its benefits and enable us to create new and exciting opportunities for future innovation, growth and how we do business.

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