Big data could be the driving force behind your company’s growth – but it is crucial to invest in the talent to realise its potential.

That was the view of a panel of experts BusinessCloud brought together to discuss the IoT, big data and their potential applications.

With a proliferation of IoT devices gathering data in the modern world, the challenge now is for companies to capture and use that data to improve efficiency, products and services.

“From a business perspective, the IoT is all about efficiency optimisation, process and data gathering,” says Richard Hamnett, co-founder of ResponseTap, a firm which tracks web visitors.

“Machine learning allows us to find all of the patterns from data which you’d never be able to observe in real life without aggregating that up.”

Put in simple terms, machine learning is artificial intelligence capable of learning by itself.

Computer programs of this type automatically amend their behaviour with exposure to new data.

Steve Strickland-Wright, CTO of software firm Cake Solutions, says using data to review the performance of products is key.

“Only now are people – whether they are in the boardroom of Tesla or Google or Samsung or a start-up – are looking at that data and saying ‘wow – there is a big opportunity here to understand more about their products when they are released into the wild. We can use this data to help our customers’.

“The need to understand the value of that data and invest in the resources needed to draw the insights out which will help make them better companies that serve themselves and others.”

Adrian Reed, Altium

Adrian Reed, managing director at fellow software firm Altium, agrees.

“Technology allows businesses to be organisationally more efficient – they can do things better and for less – and operationally more efficient – they are better at doing things for their customers,” he says.

“They can generate new solutions, provide products and systems and services that produce a better outcome for their customers.

“But you’ve got to understand how to collect data, the questions that your customers are asking and the way in which you solve that.”

Kerry Wright is the director of marketing and alliances at Purple, which offers a free WiFi platform through which businesses can surveil their customer's shopping patterns and habits then communicate with them through targeted messaging.

“We’re working with three local hospitals who are really interested in this world – how they can tag everything, make it more intelligent, efficient, save money and save lives,” she reveals.

“But there’s not enough investment at present in businesses in people with the right brains who understand that data.”

That is also a concern of Hamnett, who is also CTO at ResponseTap. 

Richard Hamnett, ResponseTap

“We need far more courses and university graduates that are capable of doing this stuff,” he says.

“It’s not easy – the training needs to start very early on, being able to program and stuff from a very early age.

“I think there’s a step before understanding the data in a business: it’s about gearing up your business to be agile enough to do something about it. The data you receive from analysis you need to be able to action and iterate on tests.

“That’s how we operate as a business and how we get the best gains.

“That comes with a whole organisational shift – for a big company that’s going to take a long time.”

Matthew Elliott is head of Barclays accelerator Rise in Manchester, which helps tech start-ups find their feet.  

“Future winners will be the ones who are most agile and have sufficient risk appetite to quickly test new ways of applying their core strengths into new markets,” he says.

“Big data is an opportunity to collaborate: future businesses should work together to drive shared growth and positive changes to societal economic health.

“It all sounds a bit fluffy, but the person who cracks that can also make a shed ton of money.”

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