Before long, “everything that computes will connect, and everything that connects will compute”, Abhi Ingle, who spearheads innovation at AT&T, told last week’s FT Innovate America conference in Silicon Valley.
It’s hard to hide from big data. After submitting its staff records for independent analysis, one retailer discovered it was paying more than 150 employees who had called in sick years earlier – and simply disappeared from the workplace. The human resources managers responsible were so terrified of the potential backlash if they revealed the figures to their chief executive, they decided to keep the job of handling absences in-house.
Sales of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four have risen since Edward Snowden revealed how the National Security Agency of the US gains access to telephone records and data from technology companies. So far, if people do not exactly love Big Brother, they are prepared to accept some invasion of their privacy in return for security.
As elusive as Bigfoot, as addictive as a Big Mac, as sinister as Big Brother: the lure of “big data” is perfect bait for fee-hungry experts hunting new business. It also poses untold risks to companies that fail to read the trend, or the data, correctly.