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October 21, 2016

Are all businesses set to become data companies?

Simon Blunn looks data becoming the international language of businesses.

By James Nunns

There’s data everywhere. More and more things generate data: the things we touch, the media we consume, the cars we drive. Take something as humble as a lightbulb, a fundamental of life.

In 2012, Philips Hue launched a smart bulb that can collect information on everything from your IP address, to the types of smart devices you own, and the names of the

Simon Blunn, MD & Country Manager - UK&I at Qlik.

Simon Blunn, MD & Country Manager – UK&I at Qlik.

rooms in your house. Now imagine how many light bulbs there are in the world and the amount of data that would be generated if we all used even one of these smart bulbs. Once simply an electronics company, Philips suddenly has access to huge amounts of data, which could be more valuable than the products it sells.

The same is true for many car manufacturers. Companies in this space are more likely to be known in the future as data companies, rather than car manufacturers – and that’s thanks to all the information they will garner through the introduction of driverless cars and the evolution of car software.

Car sensors produce about 1.3 gigabytes of data every hour. Using a little math, we can extrapolate the amount of sensor data created by cars. If approximately 60 million cars are manufactured each year, and those cars are driven for an average of four hours per day, that would generate 312 million gigabytes or 108 exabytes yearly. Although these are huge volumes, it’s not the amount of data that’s interesting, but what can be learnt from it.

There are thousands of other examples. Take Nintendo, creators of Pokémon Go – just think of the data they hold on our movements. Whether health trackers, social networks, google searches, blogs, communities or forums, we are generating a volume and variety of data that was never conceived of before.

In the world of business, the organisations we work for are increasingly defined and differentiated by their ability to compete on data. Many well-known brands are already becoming data companies on the side, driving additional insights from the huge volume of information on human behaviours they hold.

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Take games developer King for example.  Their games generate more than two billion rows of data daily – with volumes increasing every day. Hidden in this sea of data are the secrets to game replayability, customer retention and to understanding the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

The difficult part is extracting those secrets. The data itself is of no value if you can’t draw insights from it. This is where technology comes in. Whereas in the past, business analysts had no easy way to tap into their customer data, by implementing an analytics platform, King was able to analyse the gaming behaviours of over 40 million customers and determine the ROI of their marketing campaigns. They also gained visibility into metrics, such as the number of players, number of games played, amount of time played, daily average revenue per user, continuous second-day retentions, daily and monthly active users and more.

It’s not just technology companies either. For example, Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden – one of the largest hospitals in Northern Europe – has recently worked on a value-based care program which specifically uncovered variation in Orthopedic care. By identifying anomalies and variation, the hospital was able to reduce adverse events by 18%, reoperation by 17%, and increase the number of surgeries by a staggering 44%.

As a result, reduced waiting time by more than 40 days for hip and knee replacements at the specific time. This was only made possible by engaging clinicians with data, uncovering variations, and dispelling widely held myths.

Even the United Nations Department of Political Affairs is finding new ways to use data. The organisation works with its nation states, diplomats, and analysts to monitor conditions, collecting data from social media monitoring systems and data thousands of public sources.

By developing analytics search tools for political analysts across the UN system, they have been able to conduct trend analysis, and develop predictive tools for aggregating historical data in real time in multiple languages. The dashboards give diplomats the ability to see trends rising to the surface so they can be best prepared.

With the volume of data growing exponentially, organisations will need to learn how to use this to their advantage. For those who do, a bright future is in store. With data now becoming the international language of business, the collection and exchange of data, and driving a data-driven culture within, will change how some of our most well-known brands define themselves.

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