"Big data" is perhaps the buzzterm of the year -- yet the concept may be obsolete.
Meet Joe Salvo. Salvo is Manager of General Electric's Complex Systems Laboratory, where he has over 15 years of experience working with large-scale Internet sensors. He is also founding director of the Industrial Internet Consortium. He knows a thing or two about data.
And at Boston's Connected Cloud Summit last month, the soft-spoken Salvo crossed his legs, sat back in his chair, and coolly told the room, "Most data is worthless."
As many attendees brushed their eyebrows off the room's 21-foot-high ceiling, Salvo elaborated: "By the end of the week, you pay someone to take [data] away, [except] we save it all because there's that one piece of data that's good and we may need it later."
"No. You have to throw it out," Salvo declared.
Indeed, data, no matter how big it is, intimates Salvo, is always replaceable because of the interconnectivity offered us through advanced networks, the cloud, and the Internet of Things. You can get the data you need, ditch it, and get it again if you need it again.
Therefore, the data pieces themselves are no longer important; they have become irrelevant. What is important is access to data -- and, therefore, networks and interconnectivity are of paramount importance. This is where cloud computing, distributed mesh networks, IoT, and related technologies will play a big role in our technological future.
It's all but a sign of the times. Whereas Baby Boomers were traditionally all about ownership, Millennials rent more, buy less, and use alternative-access services like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, Spotify and ZipCar.
"Access is more important than ownership for this group," MRY chief executive Matt Britton recently told the Financial Times. "They value experiences versus owning things." (See Entertainment: Generation next.)
Here, the enterprise world is little different from the consumer world.
"We're seeing the fusion of IoT and information technology," Salvo explained. "I'll declare today that the Information Age is over, and we're moving into what I like to call the Systems Age."
Salvo's co-panelists voiced their disagreement with this idea; Wendy Toth, CMO of Echelon Corporation, was especially unbridled in her criticism.
"Joe's such a funny guy with these big concepts and words," said Toth, "but [it is only] eventually [that] those silos converge, and I think where we are today is really at the beginning -- so I don't think the Information Age is over."
Salvo was insistent. "There was a Stone Age, an Iron Age," he analogized. "We still use stone last time I looked -- iron, too. If you had iron technology, you basically were in the driver's seat, and your society moved forward. Everybody has information now. It has been democratized… so it's a different world. We're still gonna use information… but I think the main point is [that] systems are going to be what counts."
Salvo's parting shot to Toth? "I think people should embrace this change, and if you don't, we know what happened to the people that stuck with stone…"
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributor, special to The New IP