EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Aug. 17, 2005 — Organizations ncreasingly must learn to cope with the explosion of “extreme data” — new types of data unleashed by new devices and used in new ways — says a report announced today by Computer Sciences Corporation (NYSE: CSC), Extreme Data: Rethinking the “I” in IT.
“Immediate and omnipresent data, including everything from blogs to satellite images, is changing what’s possible for businesses and individuals alike,” said Ed Luczak, primary contributor to the report and a senior consulting engineer at CSC. “Extreme data enables new business processes, interpersonal connections and knowledge, and requires organizations to expand their concept of information, its origins and applications.”
For example, data from a car can report actual driving behavior and lower insurance rates. Doctors can monitor patients in remote locations, and individuals can carry their medical history with them via MedicAlert “flash” drive devices. Travelers can use their cell phones to check in for airplane flights or, in the future, for admission to commuter trains.
The report, issued by CSC’s Leading Edge Forum (LEF), explores the many new forms and greatly increased volume of information, the challenges and opportunities this presents for corporations, and how early adopters are profiting by putting such information to use in creative new ways.
Vast amounts of information are blurring the line between consumer and corporate technology. Data resulting from instant messages, digital cameras, voice over IP (VoIP), MP3 files, Global Positioning System (GPS) logs, Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds and podcasts is working its way into the corporate information technology (IT) infrastructure and, in some cases, overburdening it.
“The sheer volume of information is an issue for some companies; others are concerned about increased privacy and security responsibilities associated with storing additional data,” said Luczak. “However, the world of extreme data presents outstanding new opportunities for productivity and innovation. The plusses absolutely outweigh the minuses.”
The report focuses on four dimensions of extreme data: data everywhere, time and place, social connections and meaning.
Since computing has moved to ever-smaller and more mobile devices, data has spread from familiar, stationary locations to virtually everywhere. This immediacy of data is changing norms of our business and personal lives.
Much of this is due to the influence of consumer devices on employee lifestyles. Employees’ broad use of consumer technology has expanded to the point that it is driving changes in enterprise IT. “Everyone should remember the PC, which started out as a toy for hobbyists and was shunned by the enterprise,” said Paul Gustafson, director of the LEF Technology Programs. “Consumers led the way.”
Scandinavian Airlines, the fourth largest airline in Europe, is taking advantage of the pervasiveness of mobile phones by letting travelers check in for flights via phone. Working with CSC, the airline created a system that uses text messages that alert travelers to call a voice system for check-in. The process is convenient, cost effective and decreases time spent waiting in lines at the airport.
Time and Place
Extreme data has added two important aspects to data: time and place. The integration of location-detection technologies, digital cameras, real-time sensors, wireless and mobile devices, and geographic information systems allows applications to determine when and where people and things are, and other real-time information. This data provides powerful digital bearings that make individuals and businesses smarter, safer and more precise.
Location-detection technologies such as GPS and radio frequency identification (RFID), coupled with map data, enable four key capabilities:
location awareness, dynamic mapping, object tracking and rapid identification.
For example, organizations are using GPS to track vehicles, from school buses to oil tankers, and drivers can receive real-time traffic updates via GPS-equipped cell phones.
CSC client BHP Billiton, a diversified energy and natural resources company based in Melbourne, Australia, is using RFID tags to track and reduce maintenance costs for large, expensive stainless steel plates used to produce copper. At the RFID trial site in Chile alone, CSC estimated a savings of approximately $1 million over five years.
The world of extreme data has a strong social aspect: people are interacting with each other in dramatically new ways. From chat rooms and instant messaging to blogging and wikis, technology is redefining how we communicate and work with others.
The Internet is helping people not only find long-lost friends but also pursue new business opportunities. Services such as LinkedIn help members find business contacts and then use a path of introductions from personal contacts to meet those people. In the enterprise, instant messaging and directory services are making new connections possible, transforming how work gets done. “Instant messaging, a staple of teenagers for years, is now a first-class citizen in the enterprise, providing ‘online presence,'” said Gustafson. “Integrating the social or ‘people’ aspect directly into the application accelerates how people work together.”
Another type of socialization occurs when teams work together and share information. A wiki, a shared space on the Web, is a powerful collaboration tool gaining traction in corporations. Anyone can add content to a wiki or edit content already there, increasing collective knowledge and honing best practices.
“The huge influx of data raises an important question: What does it all mean?” said Luczak. “There may be data everywhere, but it will take advances in search technology, semantics and pattern detection to help us use it well — to extract everything we can from it.”
An organization’s digital assets are no longer confined to text; they encompass static images, video, audio and more. Organizations need comprehensive search techniques that can understand disparate media types. Companies like Google and Yahoo provide image and video search functions, and specialized search tools are emerging for both consumers and businesses.
Metadata — data about data — can be used to add semantic information to data, enabling improved searching. Corporations are beginning to organize their metadata using such tools as a thesaurus or taxonomy in ways that help people navigate by topic.
On a broader scale, the Semantic Web movement is attempting to explicitly encode Web data with meaning to enable software applications to find, integrate and work with content more effectively. Because the data will be accessed by computer programs, which can perform many tasks almost instantaneously, the Semantic Web promises to be much more powerful than today’s Internet.
“Having access to such a great and varied amount of information presents an exciting new opportunity,” said Luczak. “Thanks to new visualization techniques and tools that enable us to analyze large data sets, we can assess data in more intuitive ways and thus discover patterns and relationships that human eyes haven’t detected. The phenomenon of extreme data is like a surge of electric power. It’s amazing in its own right. But it is the application of that power, much of which remains to be seen, that will change lives and industries.”
Extreme Data: Rethinking the “I” in IT, available on the CSC Web site at http://www.csc.com/features/2005/30.shtml, sums up a year of research and interviews by CSC’s Leading Edge Forum. Part of CSC’s Office of Innovation, the LEF provides clients with access to a powerful knowledge base and global network of innovative thought leaders who engage technology and business executives on the current and future role of information technology. Focusing on the practical use of technology, the LEF offers a CSC point of view on technology trends to help clients understand what will happen in the future and how to benefit from change.
Founded in 1959, Computer Sciences Corporation is a leading global IT services company. CSC’s mission is to provide customers in industry and government with solutions crafted to meet their specific challenges and enable them to profit from the advanced use of technology.
With approximately 78,000 employees, CSC provides innovative solutions for customers around the world by applying leading technologies and CSC’s own advanced capabilities. These include systems design and integration; IT and business process outsourcing; applications software development; Web and application hosting; and management consulting. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., CSC reported revenue of $14.3 billion from continuing operations for the 12 months ended July 1, 2005. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at www.csc.com.