STEWART LANGDOWN MSLL, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR AT MACKWELL DISCUSSES THE CHALLENGES WE FACE WITH BIG DATA AND THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT LIE AHEAD
Since the launch of the world-wide web to the wider public on 6 August 1991 we started on a journey of creating the first on line storage of data. Albeit this data was a few bytes stored on a PC somewhere on a remote server. Computers of course have been with us for many years with the first commercial computers being available in the 1950’s so we have been digitising data for over 60 years.
However, it’s the on-line storage and presence that I want to discuss and how we can relate this to the real world so far as buildings are concerned. I’m not interested in the Peta bytes of data uploaded to Facebook and YouTube each day but the useful data that tells us how much energy we are using, how the space is being used and of interest to Mackwell, whether your emergency lighting is safe and compliant.
Data is responsibility
Data is information and information can be useful, but let’s not kid ourselves, data for data’s sake achieves nothing if you’re not going to act on that information.
An alarm is triggered and a fault found. How is this fault reviewed? What procedures do you have in place to address that challenge and how do you provide an audit trail to confirm you’ve acted? Data, means that if you record it then you have no excuse if you don’t act. So, you could sum this up as Big Data, big responsibility.
So being responsible, how do you manage your data and ensure that data is secure? I forgot to mention the added challenge of security; how do we ensure that our data can’t be hacked or that the product we are buying doesn’t have an engineering re-set code 1111? It’s the single biggest challenge to the Internet of Things (IoT). The key is software, who writes it and who owns it.
We at Mackwell have our own in-house software teams that write all our software, embedded or as part of our N-Light management system. We build security in and use a smart handshake to ensure our modules work together and deliver the results our customer and our customer’s customer demands. The data we generate is all about compliance and safety and you should ask yourself, do I want to take that risk of not dealing with data this way
I previously mentioned Big Data equals Big Responsibility and this is very much the case. Where we create a basic function and use data to monitor and support a safety system, we see the positives and we applaud the benefits of what technology brings. However, technology doesn’t diminish our responsibility.
Data is knowledge
We cannot hide from our browser history and we certainly can’t hide from our responsibilities but that’s a positive. We will be tracked, in fact we already are being tracked; our mobile phones, store loyalty cards, credit cards and Oyster cards are ways in which our lives are laid out before us in a complex spider’s web that has a series of regular patterns.
We travel to work, we use the train, the underground, we buy a coffee and the paper. We swipe an access card to enter a building and we continually browse the web or stream content to our phones. Ultimately, we are creatures of habit and we like the security and familiarity of routine.
If we can learn how an individual or group of people travel through or interact with a space then technology can achieve some remarkable things. It can predict our needs by learning from history and it can prepare areas for when we enter them. It can link disparate technology and allow it to work on one platform; one that we are familiar with – the screen of our mobile device.
We then have a choice. Do we use the interface of our connected life to further connect to the very fabric of the world or space in which we occupy, knowing that data will be generated and potentially used to manage us? How confident are we now in our ability to manage services and technology? Do we need to?
Data is opportunity
If we embrace technology and what data can do, especially the rather weight sensitive but aptly named Big Data then it’s like having the world’s greatest library at your fingertips. Use it and grow or ignore it and never evolve.
So many people talk about technology but the proof as they say is in the proving; education is key. The challenge for all industries is that this is a new branch of business/ commerce; it’s a service based solution where our data can improve the quality of our lives. That said, this can only ever happen if the right infrastructure is in place and we use that data properly. Data can make our lives safer, smarter and ultimately more enjoyable, if used correctly. Ignore Big Data and nothing major will happen, the sky certainly won’t fall in. Embrace information and suddenly you’re on a journey to improve your lit environment and enhance your journey through our business and social lives.
So Big data, big responsibility, even bigger opportunity.