2015: Look Ahead

Every year in January I like to sit down and reflect a bit on the year that just passed, but more importantly spend some time looking ahead at what’s to come. 2014 was undoubtedly the year of the high-profile security breach. Experts say that between Target, Home Depot and JP Morgan Chase alone, every family in the country has been directly affected (meaning potentially exposed). How we continue to deal with this going forward will be a big theme in 2015, but that’s just one of the topics we think will remain on everyone’s minds.

Security breaches on their own are scary enough, but when you consider the explosive growth in the amount of digital content being created and stored, it can be kind of sobering. More than 90% of all digital content has been created in the past 2 years, and this pace is just speeding up. Of course the two are not exactly independent events. If there wasn’t a wealth of data to steal in the form of financial, medical and intellectual electronic records, there’d be no incentive to break into a network and try to steal it. Like they used to say in the old days, why break into a bank? Because that’s where the money is! The money or at least the prize today is on your network, and if you’re not putting behind the equivalent of a Fort Knox style safe, you’re asking for trouble.

I had the opportunity to attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. It’s the first time I’ve ever been, as our focus is definitely not on technology relating to consumers. The thing is though, that line has blurred entirely. It’s been blurring for some time frankly, I’ve often said the proliferation of devices like iPhones and iPads into corporate America was driven by the fact that users just plain loved the device at home, and forced their IT departments to make them work in the office. It is important to continue monitoring these types of consumer trends because they are already impacting business solutions and will do so at an increasingly fast pace moving forward.

I mention this because as I was there, I thought about these explosion of data and what drives it and what it means. There are of course the obvious culprits. There had to be 30 different vendors pushing their newest drones. Now don’t get me wrong, these things can be very cool! They have basically become remote controlled flying cameras. Do they have business implications? I would argue yes. Consider an insurance adjuster that pulls up to an accident scene with a drone, flies it around and captures 360 degrees of video and pictures of the entire area. That would be pretty powerful imagery to store with the report. Of course all that video (which is hi-def and very large) needs to be stored on the network. How about a construction company capturing video of their site as it develops to share with customers? How about a drone in a manufacturing facility tied to a monitoring system that responds to a system failure by flying to the location of the failure and sending video back to control center for review? All this is possible right now and it all generates enormous amounts of digital content which is very much a growing concern for all businesses.

If there was a theme to CES this year, it would be what they are calling IoT or Internet of Things. The concept behind this overly fancy buzzword is very simple. Everything will be connected. From your house to your car to you, every system will be talking to each other. Samsung had a very cool, somewhat creepy prototype of the house of the future on display. Imagine pulling up to your house at the end of the day, and the temperature adjusts, lighting turns on, your favorite music starts playing, and if it’s dinner time the stove turns on and starts pre-heating. This can all happen today. Again, sounds cool, but where are the business implications?

What if you were in the hospitality space (restaurant, hotel, etc.), and you could prepare a guest experience for them in advance, and trigger it as soon as they arrive? What if your retail store could know who is in the building and dynamically adjust displays and advertisements they see as they move through the store? How about being able to analyze thousands of data points of biometric feedback to ensure your employees are happy and healthy and doing the best work they can? All these scenarios are possible with “wearable” technology and connected systems. And of course the reams of data these systems produce needs to be stored and analyzed in order to be valuable at all.

I think the real themes of 2015 will continue to be data and freedom. In some ways, these two concepts are at odds with each other. We are slaves to the technology that runs our businesses and our lives. Every action generates a trail of data that needs to be stored, protected, and analyzed. You would think this would begin to restrict how we work, but it’s been the opposite. Employees and businesses need the freedom to work anywhere, anytime, and any way they want! This challenges our ability to do just what I said – store and protect data. The world truly has become connected at a level never before seen or even imagined. These connections produce a tremendous amount of data for sure, but they also produce opportunities. Seizing these opportunities will be the real theme of business going forward for many years to come.