THE BLOG

The Intelligent Economy: Is There an App for That?

04/05/2013 02:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2013

At a recent IDC Directions 2013 Conference in Boston it was noted that the IT industry is in the midst of a once-every-25-years shift to a new technology platform that will spur incredible growth and innovation. IDC calls it "The Third Platform" and it's built on four pillars: mobility (mobile broadband network, devices and apps), cloud services, big data and analytics, and social technologies.

Motivating this transition is a shift from today's information economy (which accumulates and stores large volumes of data) to an intelligent economy. The intelligent economy focuses on the ability to capture and analyze data and apply context-based visibility and control into actionable information. This ability to synthesis data can differentiate businesses by increasing execution velocity, improving co-creation of value and ultimately growing market share.

Interestingly, what was clearly missing from the technology mega trends was the "Apps" pillar. Although IDC had Apps embedded under Mobility I felt it needed to be more visible. The bustling Apps industry is creating new jobs and changing the way business gets done. Today, 47,000 Apps are downloaded every minute. These Apps are affecting every aspect of our lives - how we communicate, play and work.

Business leaders can position their companies to align their capabilities and go-to-market strategy by focusing on Apps in these 4 innovation solutions:

Ubiquitous Mobility

It should come as no surprise that smartphones are becoming ubiquitous. By the end of 2013, there will be 1.4 billion smartphones and 268 million tablets in active use.
Advanced hardware and easily-accessed software applications turn these devices into incredibly versatile tools for a myriad of personal and business needs: Unified Communications, cameras, GPS, videos recorders, social networking, health monitoring and various other Apps.

However, smartphones become vastly more impressive when they connect and communicate with more powerful remote servers over wireless broadband. The result of this connectivity is that consumers that are capturing and sending a vast volume and variety of content to remote servers in the cloud at incredible velocity. This content can be anything that the users capture or receive via the device's built-in "sensors". These sensors include audio sensor (microphone), visual sensor (camera), GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, barometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor -- the list is potentially endless. All of these sensors enhance the user experience and create more data. With hardware and software advances, there is no doubt that this collection of sensors will only become richer and provide even more information. For example, future smartphones phones may include temperature, humidity or air quality sensors -- all resulting in greater velocity, volume and variety of content captured and sent through the network.

Crowdsourcing and Big Data

With users of smartphones all socially connected and constantly uploading content to the cloud, organizations have started to use "crowdsourcing" to collect and store Big Data. Crowdsourcing is the practice of taking a job traditionally performed by employees or contractors of an organization and outsourcing it to public - sometimes passively. For example, people with GPS-enabled handsets running Google Maps are already contributing to the cause. As long as they allow the app to share presence information, location and speed data are being sent to Google and turned into usable information and made available to others. Other examples include monitoring air pollution via video visibility; locating invasive plants in participating parks; monitoring community-wide epidemiology; and so on.

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communications and the Internet of Things

The combination of ubiquitous smartphones, crowdsourced data and mobile broadband network is being leveraged by a number of cities around the world to build "Smart Cities." These are cities in which machine-to-machine (M2M) technology is used to connect everything from traffic lights, consumer smartphones to public transport vehicles with the local broadband network. The idea is to analyze sensor-based data from all of these connected sources so as to better coordinate them and make cities more efficient - both to live in, and in terms of energy use. For example, sensors in parking bays might help drivers find a space more easily, reducing unnecessary driving and idling. Another example is the automatic detection of potholes - some cities have developed smartphone apps that can use accelerometers to automatically detect potholes while driving and automatically send the exact location of each pothole to the city management. The result is not only faster and less expensive pothole detection, but also a host of accompanying data (time of day, frequency of traffic, number of drivers impacted, etc.) that lets the city prioritize which potholes to repair. The benefit is a road repair service that can please the most citizens with the least amount of taxpayer dollars - which only increases citizen satisfaction further! At Enterasys, we are already using M2M communication via social networks to deliver customer service and support using Salesforce.com's chatter social technologies and services cloud integration.

Application Enabled Intelligent Economy

These are only a few examples where Apps will support the intelligent economy - there are far more than could be covered in this post. The issue here is that with all this data being uploaded by all these devices and Apps, we have now significantly increased the volume, velocity and variety of data collected. Two years ago Eric Schmidt of Google stated "Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003". That's something like five exabytes of data or 5 billion gigabytes. Note that he said that in 2011 -today it probably takes a lot less than two days! According to a recent blog from Intel, every minute 30 hours of video is uploaded to youtube and 640K GB of data is transferred. So the increased data collected will only grow.

While IT administrators are used to facing the challenge of handling growing data volumes in terms of port bandwidth and storage, big data will likely push the limits of enterprises' current infrastructure faster than they are prepared for. Administrators will need to look beyond just data volume (storage), velocity (port bandwidth) and variety (voice, video and data). The intelligent economy requires enterprises to add value to all this data by monitoring, analyzing and controlling user access and network experience. According to Gartner, business knowledge and acumen is the #1 trait of CIOs of the future.

The opportunities in bringing intelligence to application data can be huge, especially in analyzing and correlating this data with information about the devices, users, location, time, and other variables. For example, call centers can integrate their multiple data systems to collect and analyze all their customer transactions in order to better predict customer defections and improve customer satisfaction. Hospitals can proactively identify high risk patients, apply predictive models and examined analytics through which providers can intuitively navigate, interpret and take preemptive actions for better health. Universities can attract and retain students by providing apps for digital textbooks, smart buses, laundry facilities and parking so that students can experience better time management and an improved college experience.

To successfully compete in the intelligent economy, enterprises will need to easily and centrally identify all the apps, bandwidth and other resources used by their employees and customers. This means in-depth visibility and control of all users, their devices, their locations, the Apps they are running and other resources they are consuming. This is application intelligence and it will give CIOs and other executives the network and business knowledge they need to make more strategic decisions. Is there an App for that?

This post was co-authored by Ali Kafel, Director of product marketing at Enterasys.