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Big data ‘the quiet star’ of CES 2015

You know its a new year in the tech world not when the champagne corks pop at midnight, but when the entire industry decamps to Las Vegas in early January to get first-hand experience of the big trends of the year at the annual CES event.

The first major trade show of the year always sets the scene for what we can expect in the months to come, and CES 2015 – which concluded last week – was no exception. Some 170,000 industry professionals explored the 2.2 million square feet of event space over the four days of the show to take a look at the latest 4K TVs, smartphones and in-car technology.

But in 2015, one of the unheralded stars of the show was big data, at least according to Information Week. The publication's Jeff Bertolucci stated this underpins many of the innovations on display at the event, as the Internet of Things(IoT) emerged as one of the key trends of the year.

From smartphones to wearable gadgets and smart home appliances, sensor-equipped gadgets were everywhere at CES, and this means there will be a huge increase in the amount of data collected in the months and years to come.

In a presentation ahead of the show, the Consumer Electronics Association's chief economist Shawn Dubravac detailed how a range of factors have contributed to this situation, including falling costs for key components and improved wireless networking protocols. This is resulting in an era of information sharing on a scale never seen before.

He estimated there will be 50 billion connected devices coming online in the next few years, leading to a new stage of the internet where detailed data about individuals will be used to guide decision-making and offer more personalised services.

However, the huge increase in such gadgets will require businesses to think carefully about how the gather this data, what possible uses they can put it to, and how they go about protecting sensitive details.

"This explosion of data-sharing devices presents many challenges, of course, particularly those involving potentially sensitive medical data culled from health-oriented wearables and sensors," Mr Bertolucci wrote. "In addition to unresolved security and privacy issues, there's the thorny question of who owns the data generated by these devices." 

There can be no doubt that data will play a huge role in 2015's technology developments, with Mr Dubravac describing the IoT as an example of "fragmented innovation" – where cheaper technology has made it economically viable for data sharing to migrate from traditional sources such as desktop PCs and smartphones to a growing assortment of products, across consumer, business, and industrial markets.

Whether this is insurance telematics providing data on customers' activities to generate a more personalised quote, healthcare organisations collecting medical data from wearable gadgets, or utilities firms using sensors to monitor and react to fluctuating power demands, there is a huge amount of potential for data to transform how businesses operate in 2015 – provided they have the right big data solutions in place to gather, analyse and interpret this information.