Planet of the Digital Apes

The world we know today has been defined by data.  The vehicles that we drive to and from work would not exist without the countless hours of experiments and data collection dating back to the times when Newton proposed the three laws of motion.  However, unlike the days of Newton, now humans live in the information age where enormous amounts of data are created and collected every second.

Big data is defined as very large sets of data that are analysed using powerful computers and software to reveal insights into the world.  Big data is most famous for its use in marketing where consumers are sent tailored ads according to their buying patterns and internet search history.  However, big data is already in use in a wide variety of industries.  The finance industry has utilised big data for a few years now in order to detect early and prevent devious activity online, and to create analytics to assist in trading.  Another phrase that is thrown around frequently with big data is “The Internet of Things” (IoT), which is the interconnection between different technologies via the internet to send and receive data.  Big data, coupled with IoT technology, has the capacity to produce hyper-intelligent, automated systems that respond rapidly to changes in consumer behaviour, supply chains and much more.  The question is: why aren’t more companies within the FMCG industry utilising this technology?

One major hurdle is the cost of the infrastructure required to be able to analyse and utilise big data.  Complex computer systems, data storage facilities and IoT technology do not come cheap.  It is also difficult to justify this large cost of installing a technology system capable of utilising big data when your current technology works fine.  So why even bother with it?  This question can be answered with one popular phrase: adapt or die.  History has shown that companies that are unable to keep up with technological advances meet their demise quickly thereafter.

New forms of technologies are not the only change that businesses will need to look out for within the digital information age.  With the use of big data in the workplace comes the birth of a new corporate species: the data analyst.  Although supercomputers can analyse more data within a second than a human could within the entirety of their life, they are still unable to think critically.  There still needs to exist a human interface that can look at the data critically and determine the validity of big data’s insights.  In the information age, the data analyst creating insights will be your main driver of value for your products.

A company that has the capability to utilise big data and IoT technology will be placing themselves far ahead of the competition.  The ability to process large amounts of data at the customer’s end and then use the insights from it to make decisions internally in the digital information age is priceless.  Imagine being able to change the volume of product you produce, purchase variable amounts of raw materials to create your products, and sell variable amounts of product to vendors in different geographical locations all depending on real-time data from customer buying trends, availability of materials, marketing campaign influences and even the weather forecast!

Matt Nixon; Digital Architect – Pollen Technology

First published in Inside FMCG: