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This is one of a series of live blog posts directly from the site of the 2013 IFS World Conference in Barcelona. Business journalist Adam Tinworth is a veteran of Reed Business Information and a lecturer on digital journalism at City University in London. His first-hand impressions are accompanied by illustrations of Matthew Buck, cartoonist for Drawnalism.

We’re at a remarkable inflection point of change. It’s beyond technology – it’s a perfect storm. The Perfect Storm movie tells of a storm that cost the entire crew of the Andrea Gail their lives. This 1991 storm was several smaller storms that came together. That convergence mad sit a perfect storm. The same is happening in tech now. Several storms are magnifying each others’ effects.

Devices

In 2003 there were 10 human beings for every connected devices. In 2008 we were at parity. Since 2010, there have been more devices. What has caused this? The phone in your pocket. Into the future, we’re going to be surrounded by more and more internet connected devices. Fridges that tell you if you need milk. Cars that come with apps. When his mother in law arrived home to a snow-hit Boston, she could use an app to turn her car on and get it warm and snow free before she got to the car park.

Data

Cows_the_internet_of_thingsWe now have internet-connected cows, that are feeding back health information to the farms. They’re creating data – as are all of those connected device. Until 2009 we had created 0.8Zb of data. In 2015 it will be 7.9Zb, and in 2020 it will be 35Zb. Companies that can use it will thrive. Those who can’t will be swept away.

The Cloud

The era of the cloud is here. Microsoft has eight gigantic cloud data centres around the world right now. They have another 20 under construction around the world. Each costs $500m to build. That’s a $10bn investment.

He gets to see a lot of companies at this inflection point. His advice?

  • Before you jump into big data projects, decide what it is that makes you special. Just as his son selected a “special” pumpkin, you customers chose you for a reason – know what that is. Ask you ex-customers why you lost them. Ask your peers. Figure out what it is.
  • The only wrong answer to that question is price. You will lose that – because it’s a race to the bottom.
  • Use the perfect storm against that. Use devices to get the message out, use data to understand it, and use the cloud to scale up what you’re doing.

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