Hunting the (Data) Future by Cosimo Accoto

We are on the verge of a new age. Measuring, managing and monetizing data is the new competitive business asset. What’s more is that the data is going to totally reinvent our economy. As the data guru Mayer-Schönberger writes in his new book Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data, money-based market is an outdated transactional technology. As in data-rich markets, we no longer have to condense consumer preferences information into prices (using finance or money as technology to create, coordinate and manage business and organizational transactions). Instead, we can use data flows, information richness and machine learning algorithms to redesign and create more efficient and innovative markets and organizations. Society and economy, thus, are going to be transformed as never before. We haven't seen anything yet and we must be prepared to ride this new tech and biz wave. So, in hunting our data future, here go my three first strategic provocations.

 

1. Every business will be an information business

 

Data is going to be the new and mandatory parameter to determine business. With an ever-increasing number of companies and startups clicking the productive utilization of data and algorithms and the sensing/mining technologies advancing to gather more and more market and consumer intelligence, the analysis and handling of data will have to be tackled quite strategically by each and every employee, manager and executive. The businesses will be as good as their ability to grip data and so, every business will be a data business. Whatever will be your product, service, experience, industry, application or platform, your competition will be focused on data availability and intelligibility. In every production process (from product design to customer delivery), in every marketing plan (from physical stores to digital channels) and in every analytical approach (from descriptive KPI to predictive metrics), data will be the ultimate resource for your business’s or company’s success. It was pointed out by The Sentient Enterprise (2018), in an interview with Gerhard Kress, vice president of data services at Siemens Mobility’s division that focuses on railway vehicles and control systems, that: “The sensor data from just one fleet of trains in Europe can fill about 100 billion lines of a table. The right analysis of all this data can let us know, a week or two in advance, that a component on a train is going to fail, and we can take steps to stop or minimize the problem before it happens. That’s something we couldn’t have done just a few years ago”. This leads me to the second relevant provocation.

 

 

2. Every business will be a prediction business

 

Data is not just predicted to grow exponentially. Data will be at the core of the new business: the production of prediction. Due to the current success of machine and deep learning, data will be the ultimate driver for predictive and anticipatory business models. In fact, artificial intelligence is fundamentally a technology of prediction. This strategic framework is clearly demonstrated in the path-breaking book, Prediction Machines (2018) that focuses on what strategists and managers really need to know about the AI data revolution. Basically, prediction is the process of filling in missing information for the optimization and innovation of a business. “Prediction takes information you have, often called ‘data’ and uses it to generate information you don’t have” - say the authors. So, we are moving from technologies as archives to technologies as oracles (predictive engines). This paradigm shift will deeply impact business processes and value innovation: from predictive maintenance to preventive medicine, from dynamic pricing to chaotic storage, from recommendation engines to alerting services or from virtual assistants to autonomous vehicles. The so-called anticipatory design is a clear sign of this emerging, disruptive and innovative trend. Prediction will be everywhere helping us (as humans and managers) not just in managing present information overload, but – more importantly – the uncertainty of future.

 

3. Every business will be an automation business

 

Last two decades have witnessed major advances in artificial intelligence, robotics and automation. Future is expected to be even more spectacular, radically transforming life and work around the world. Coming over the horizon, it is a new wave of opportunities (value abundancy) and vulnerabilities (human redundancy). But automation is not just the matter of machinery, robotics, drones or smart cars. It refers to a more institutional evolution of our society and economy toward automated, automatic and automatized data, protocols and platforms. New architectures will coordinate trusted human interactions. Think about the coming business of blockchain technology. As Casey and Vigna write in their new The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything (2018), “Blockchains point the entire digital economy toward something people are calling the internet of value. Whereas the first version of the internet allowed people to send information directly to each other, in the internet of value people can send anything of value to each other, be it currencies, assets, or valuable data that was previously too sensitive to transmit”. This protocol and ledger is a new socioeconomic technology, but also an institution (a token economy), potentially capable to redesign and automatize not just money, banking and finance, but many other industries and services –  law and notary services as well as music, logistics and energy, to name a few.

This is our future world – brave and upfront. Hunting this future - Aldo confessed friendly and proudly to me - is the Open Search Network’s ultimate mission.

 

* Cosimo Accoto is the author of “In Data Time and Tide” (Bocconi University Press, 2018 forthcoming), Research Affiliate at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Boston) and Business Innovation Advisor.