Instead of Waiting on Ideas Like IoT, How About Building the Internet of Data Today?

Brad Shimmin
Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • The vast amounts of data promised with big data efforts like IoT will greatly increase our ability for rapidly and correctly predicting the best way to run our businesses.
  • Yet, that’s nothing compared to the value currently locked away within closed data repositories. And it’s high time we opened those up.

Anyone familiar with the popular Waze mobile app (now owned by Google) understands the power of data not just collected, but data shared. Originally, this clever mobile app encouraged users to personally report on traffic loads, construction delays, even gas prices. The collective, net results were maps accessible to all Waze users, maps made more powerful and much more accurate through this shared data.

So, why can’t big data be like that? Why can’t each company’s hard-earned knowledge benefit other companies? Figuratively speaking, if there are car-swallowing potholes on a motorway, and if an unfortunate driver happens to wander into one of those gaping holes, then isn’t there value in alerting other motorists?

Yes and no.

We all know that information wants to be free, but quite often its owners demand otherwise. Much of the data generated within an organization is truly proprietary and should never be shared. That’s how companies make money (think patents and copyright). And, of course, that’s how people retain their privacy (often through legislation). But, what about that data in aggregate? What about the general lessons learned within that data – lessons such as “there’s a monster pothole at these coordinates” or “there’s a contraindicated drug pairing within a specific patient demographic”?

I realize that these questions have been asked many times over and there’s no easy answer to the problem of opening up data. But, I was reminded last week during a meeting with IBM’s Watson Group just how far we have yet to go in both finding ways to open data and, more importantly, seeing how valuable shared data can be on an enterprise level. That’s why IBM recently introduced IBM Watson Health, which includes a cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant data mart of open healthcare information (clinical, exogenous, and genomic).

IBM hopes to prove the value of a massive, curated data warehouse that’s basically capable of ingesting the 1,1000 terabytes of medical data each of us generates in a lifetime and squeezing valuable, life-saving insights from that data. IBM also hopes to use this new offering to learn how it can work with the owners/generators of that data to establish standards and best practices applicable to any given vertical or use case such as finance, government, insurance, energy, retail, et al. Note that there are literally no standards available for such a thing. That’s why IBM intends to prioritize intra-organizational cooperation to make this work. Of course, that’s a pretty tall order within hotly contested markets such as these.

Regardless, I for one hope IBM succeeds with Watson Health. And I hope other horizontal technology providers (SAP, Oracle,, etc.) undertake similar efforts. The industry needs to see that there’s not just human value, but also profit for an industry built upon open data.

What do you think?

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