A previous article on the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) explained that each of these technologies produces and uses data. The types of data collected vary from personal profiles on social media sites to health and fitness data, to purchase histories, etc. All companies use data to tailor their services to customers. Data has become the new oil, as it can be used or misused to rule the world. People across the globe are connected in almost real-time to one another.
As digital data increasingly becomes a critical source of innovation and value, business/country boundaries are being redrawn. Companies that automate their vast amounts of data for predictive and prescriptive insights continue to generate competitive market positions and can outgrow their market segments. However, how much value will ultimately be created and who will gain from it is far from certain. The underlying regulatory, business and technological issues are complex, interdependent and ever-changing.
To get value from your data, you need to make sure it is ‘clean’, or else the insights that are developed will not make sense, be useless or, even worse, cost you money should you make incorrect decisions – garbage in, garbage out also applies here. Consider COVID-19, where misleading data could cost lives and/or cause delays in finding a vaccine.
After the data has been cleaned, it can be augmented to add value, for example location-based data, prevailing weather conditions and age demographics. Data augmentation is particular to the core data set and to the question you are working to answer. GPDR/POPIA rules apply to the personal data you collect and store, and care should be taken to adhere to these Acts.
Real-time data can be collected and passed through a quality cycle where data is cleaned and correctly labelled, stored, augmented and analysed to produce advanced predictive or even prescriptive insights. Decisions based on accurate predictive and prescriptive insights will lead to enhanced competitiveness and business agility. The analysis may detect trends and anomalies (for example changes to virus strains) and can be used to predict specific outcomes. When the data received falls outside the norm, the upper and lower constraints need to be determined and specific triggers may be activated.
The data that is collected must be in its rawest form, as close as possible to the originating source, and in as near as real-time as you can get. Once the data is modified or filtered, it may not be as valuable as when it was in its rawest form, for example the name, physical address and contact details of a person making a reservation. For example, a small abnormal spike in temperature occurring every five or ten minutes may be filtered out using some mean calculation, but these anomalous readings could very well point to a potential degradation in the equipment (prediction). If inspected and serviced timeously, this could save on maintenance budget, because a timeously serviced part may prevent an unplanned breakdown which, in turn, may result in production downtime and unnecessary replacement costs.
Nowadays, addresses tend to be less useful because of the prevalence of email addresses and the deterioration in our postal service. However, instead of deleting that information, the data can be used to determine, for example, from which provinces most of the guests to that hotel come from. This, in turn, will drive more accurate, target marketing and advertising campaigns to broaden the visitor base.
With the technology we have today, collecting, augmenting and analysing data will produce significant value in the form of enhanced competitiveness, collaboration and improved business agility.
To summarise, data is just data − of importance is what you do with the data through leveraging the available technologies. Innovation and obtaining a competitive edge through your data may put you at the forefront of your industry and market segment; it may even enable you to produce revenue streams and business models that were previously out of your reach or not even thought of.
AUTHOR │ Eva Noble CA(SA) is Chief Operations Officer at ONPRO Consulting SA