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The Opportunities in Big Data Still Ripe for Innovation

– Associate Editor, BostInno Tech

Big data is the “new currency” — an innovation that can boost or bust a business when not properly taken advantage of. Smart startups have been dipping into the deluge of data to draw out audience analytics, predict maintenance before costly breakdowns or better deliver targeted treatments to their consumers.

With innovation naturally comes a surge of yet-to-be explored opportunities other companies should have the foresight to capitalize on.

“More big data disruption is coming,” said Ryan Betts, CTO of Bedford-based VoltDB, in an email to BostInno. “And it will be around real-time, interactive experiences.”

The space is one VoltDB has been able to establish itself in, by providing an in-memory relational database that combines massive data ingest with real-time analytics and decisioning, so that organizations can act on data at its greatest point of value.

Betts pointed to big-name behemoths, such as Google, Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft, that are also establishing themselves in the space. He noted “unlimited Internet-attached storage space can be purchased at very cost competitive prices,” which, when combined with “ubiquitous computing,” are creating a network effect that’s become increasingly beneficial to consumers.

“In the same way that social networks become more powerful and offer greater utility as members join and build connections,” Betts explained, “these devices will connect to share data, to cooperate with one another and to interact with us in our environment.”

Betts menCloud-Computing-captioned Nest, a company reinventing the thermostat and smoke alarm by connecting to the Internet and syncing up to apps in a way that’s reinventing climate control. The collision Betts’ described is even more evident in individuals’ “smartphone on the coffee table” or “tablet a family member uses for Facebook.”

He added, “For the consumer, the automation and the disruptive potential of these devices communicating and interacting with one another will create relevant, micro-personalized experiences.”

To Atlas Venture Partner Chris Lynch, co-founder and board member of Kendall Square’s big data hackerspace hack/reduce, the future is, indeed, in “automation, simplification and integration.” Lynch broke each element down in an email to BostInno, saying:

Automation of the process of analyzing data, simplification of the user interface to allow non-data scientists to participate in the big data revolution and integration of next generation analytics into legacy applications people already know how to use.

Lynch acknowledged big data’s downfalls, adding, “Platform and tool companies are largely played out.”

His comment was reminiscent of that of Google Ventures’ Rich Miner, who, at Harvard Business School’s recent Cyberposium, argued, “Big data is a very overused word.” He added that big data is often “a layer, not a startup itself.” Yet, he had formerly singled out Nest for taking “mundane devices” and making it work on users’ behalf, noting there’s “a huge amount of innovation” in the connected devices space — which all circles back to big data.

“From a pure technology perspective, we need to deliver scale, security and simplicity,” Lynch said. “[We need to] make it easy for people to absorb the technology and increase the time to value.”

To Betts, the industry can see immense value from interconnections, as well. As he posited:

Interconnections will impact factory manufacturing plants; impact how predictive maintenance is scheduled and executed on high-end industrial equipment; create connected Internet services that must scale authorization and authentication, detect and prevent financial, telephone and even online-game fraud, and make construction sites better monitored, safer and more efficient. And that’s not all. It will also participate in building a smarter electric grid that is cheaper, less wasteful, more reliable and designed to supply power to electric vehicles while generating power through broadly distributed residential solar panels and other alternative sources.

Now it’s up to innovators to seize the opportunities.

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