THE BLOG

Surprise! Big Data Rocks CES 2014

01/14/2014 02:41 pm ET | Updated Mar 16, 2014

Up and down the halls of CES, new and exciting items comprising "The Internet of Things" surround us. Tech geeks everywhere can rejoice as the next wave of tech we need, want and have no use for is brought to Las Vegas for human consumption.

If there were one overarching theme for the show it would be that just about every item on the show floor, barring the structure and the carpet in some way shape or form connected to the Internet.

As for this "Internet of Things," it is bigger than most would think. In a recent study from Gartner, they predict that by 2020 more than 26 billion items will be riding on the Internet's coattails. That is a whole lot of stuff that is going to be connected to the network.

With so many devices doing so many things, the opportunity to build smarter products, services and communities seems endless. This of course depends on how we utilize the data that all of these devices create to do powerful, ideal or even just useful things with it.

Perhaps the most profound takeaway I had from the show this year is that all of these brands are selling us smart gadgets, but what we are really buying (into) is big data.

The Illusion of Free

Just about everyone I know loves to get something for nothing. Regardless of how many times our parents told us nothing is free, we continue to buy into the hype.

  • Facebook is free
  • Twitter is free
  • My Golf GPS is free
  • Pandora is free
  • Google Drive is free...

Stop me if you have heard this quote before:

"When the service is free, then you are the product."

This post isn't an education or tutorial on privacy policy, but as a quick break from the topic let me deliver a public service announcement.

When it comes to most of the free services and applications out there, if you think the service is free, then read the privacy policy and then tell me if you still think it is free.

Regardless, for most of us, privacy policy or not, we like the services we use so we don't mind a little intrusion. After all it is 2014 and what is private anymore? Not a whole lot.

Perhaps at this point you are thinking, how does this connect to CES, Big Data or Business in any way?

I'm glad you asked; please allow me to make the connection.

New Gadget? There Is An App With That...

Think about every new widget at CES. Everything that is new and hot. Wearable tech, flat panel televisions, networked dishwashers.

Now think of all of those aforementioned devices and tell me what they all have in common?

Yes, they are all part of this "Internet of Things" and further they all have an app, many of which are mobile, social and cloud enabled.

In short you can email your dishwasher to check in and you can run your television from anywhere in the world with your smart phone.

Great, so now that we have agreed that everything is connected, what do you presume may be the biggest value for the product manufacturers and retailers? What about the consumer? What is the largest opportunity for the consumer?

For the resale channel it is all about data mining. Now that virtually every device is on the internet, the opportunity to monitor usage and collect data about how people behave is almost endless.

While to some degree this amount of information creates a lot of concern for the users, in reality it is this data that provides such a wonderful opportunity.

Making The Big Data Connection: Available DataBecomes Useful Data?

Imagine a world where our likes and dislikes are known to such an extent that our consumption experiences were almost always flawless.

  • Steak, medium rare
  • Coke, not Pepsi
  • King Bed on a high floor
  • Television Dramas without violence
  • Golf on link style courses when the temperature is less than 90

To some extent we are already there. Through the information we unknowingly provide to brand marketers and social networks, companies can tailor products and services that are not similar to, but exactly what you want. If you question this even a little bit start paying attention to the ads that you are served up on Yahoo, Facebook or Amazon.

Of course the limiting factor of completely rolling out these highly tailored experiences comes down to the amount of data that is being harnessed vs. the ability to process the data to deliver these superhuman customer experiences.

For instance, imagine if you are traveling on vacation to Disney World and you rent a car for the week. Imagine if your air, hotel and vehicle experience can be tied to your musical taste, GPS requirements and favorite foods. The data is all out there, but at this point it isn't cohesively working together. There are far too many disparate systems that cannot work together in harmony.

Today, we are only beginning to use the seemingly endless supply of data to drive an experience such as the one mentioned above without any additional input required from the consumer. Tomorrow however, so much more is possible.

This gap between available data and usable data is perhaps the biggest difference and the most important variable in successfully taking "The Internet of Things" and making it endlessly value for a brand.

By bringing virtually every device online from our pants to our refrigerator we are getting closer to capturing the entire human experience. Given there is now a technology that can sense our skin's exposure to ultraviolet light. What could be next could be a sensor that provides our sentiment or our truthfulness. Really the possibilities are endless.

Stepping Into The Future of Business With Big Data and Bigger Changes

In the past, market research and intelligent data mining was too expensive for most businesses. Leaving only the biggest and wealthiest companies to play.

Today there are opportunities for smaller organizations to leverage tools being built by fast and innovative companies to harness, sort and utilize the data to have better insights about our consumers eventually leading to happier customers and better customer experiences. We are closer than ever before to accomplishing this, however we aren't there yet.

Maybe that is the neatest thing about shows like CES. For a matter of just a few days we can step out of the present and take a long uncertain gaze into the future. Then we can ask ourselves; with such rapid proliferation of technology, what else is possible?

For small businesses, can you harness the power of big data, even in a limited capacity to create even slightly better customer experiences?

What about the enterprise, how can "The Internet of Things" empower your brand to tie the online and offline experience together. By knowing so much about our likes and dislikes can you use the power of big data to more seamlessly connect our virtual presence to our physical one?

Today companies are far more active mining the technology, leaving me to wonder, who plans to step up and use it wisely? Harnessing its powers for more than just ad tech and identifying social influence.

As this year's CES comes to an end, there is still time to make the connections of what is to come. However, one thing has become entirely clear to me, the power of big data rocked the room and the future of business at this year's CES, the question that I am still uncertain about is whether or not everybody knew it.