If it can be measured, it will soon be.
When you peel back a lot of the hype behind things like IBM's Smarter Planet campaign specifically, and business intelligence and analytics in general, what you start to find is a whole lot of sensors.
For example, the health care field is witnessing the rollout of all kinds of remote services for monitoring heartbeats and glucose levels, to even reminding people to take their pills on time. Now college and professional football teams are testing helmets that can not only sense concussions, but also whether the person wearing the helmet is in danger of a heatstroke.
In terms of traditional business processes, we've already seen the deployment of RFID tags on any number of physical processes. As these sensors become less expensive and smaller to deploy, we're about to gain access to mounds of data that should ultimately lead to more insight. That data can then in theory be used to re-route traffic, change the allocation of electricity to any given sector of the electric grid, or make a business process more efficient.
This is one of the driving principles behind all the increased interest in predictive analytics, and one of the primary reasons that IBM bought SPSS. It's also why a lot of people think storage vendors have a bright future because all this collected data has to go somewhere.
What's interesting about all this is that once all this data is collected and analyzed in a meaningful way, we're probably going to be in for a more than a few surprises. A lot of our daily business assumptions are based on data that we randomly collect. We usually know, for instance, how much money passed through any given transaction. But we usually know very little about the efficiency of the task that was performed that generated the need for the transaction. By being able to deploy sensors end-to-end across an entire business process, we might actually be able to establish some real truths about that process. Today what we have are many variations of the truth about any given business process depending on which application we're looking viewing at any given moment. With sensors, we can now share all data about any given process in real time.
We're a long way from making this vision an everyday reality. But it's pretty clear that we're on the cusp of some new business realities driven by rise of millions of invisible sensors. The question is whether your company is going to be able to effecitively deal with this new reality head on, or be left wondering how it is that rivals always seem to have much better insight into what is going on than you do?