2019 will be the year of data
AI hype is at frenetic levels; will 2019 be the year such hype peaks and starts to fall? ‘Data and Analytics’ remains misunderstood as too many lay folks think it just is a new way to say, Business Intelligence; and Analytics, as in “Data and Analytics” are really seen by many as just the same thing, and not Data, and Analytics. Worse, some economists might even write about data being the new oil of the gig economy or tech revolution. All these views miss the key point.
In the US print Christmas’s edition of the Economist a leader article posed this: A new way to think about data is needed. The article muses about the dichotomy of how more and more of our life works around the assumption that others (mostly companies) use data about us;l to serve us, yet there is then less privacy and more risk that bad things may happen as a result. The article concludes with this sentence:
“But the first step towards ensuring the fairness of the new information age is to understand that it is not data that are valuable. It is you.”
I suspect (and I am not referring to any specific research position here- I am musing only) that by the year the markets interest in AI will be passed its peak. What I mean to say is that the markets love of AI as we know it today will be passed its peak; AI may be reinvented. Today the markets desire for a general purpose technology (GPT) far outstrip the actual ability of AI to deliver predictable value as a special purpose technology (SPT). By Christmas 2019 I suspect our faith and hope in a single GPT will have evaporated, though it maybe replaced with narrower, more successfully SPT applications. The nature of the market however will not be satiated: it always wants bigger and better silver bullets.
With all the public stories of data breaches and leakages it is no surprising that the EU’s GDPR has garnered a lot of attention. In 2018 GDPR was signed onto the statute books. As soon as I experienced the Facebook story in Europe, first hand, in the Spring of 2018, I asked our GDPR experts when did they think the US would enact a similar law at a federal level? At that time they felt it was a long shot. I didn’t; I felt it would come soon. Already we have California with its own strong privacy laws and several federal attempts are GDPR-like laws. I would not be surprised to see the US pass a federal law by the end of 2019 that is very similar to GDPR in Europe.
On December 21st the US print edition of the Financial Times carries an opinion piece by Gillian Tett called, Who Owns our Data when a Company Does? This is an excellent article since Gillian calls out the clear and obvious gap and inconsistency in how data as an asset is recognized.
Remember the Facebook story I mentioned above? The offending vendor concerned was called Cambridge Analytica, and they shut their doors as a result of the data snafu. It seems some people shows Data was subject to the access error by Facebook to the vendor want their data back. After all, it is data created by individuals. The problem, as noted by the opinion piece, is that it is not clear that the people involved really do own their data about them.
As noted in the article a firm that goes bust will be obliged to sell its assets to help cover its debts. You may remember seeing articles in the press about this company or that company that sells its data assets in such situations. Yet when operating those same firms, all firms, are not able to recognize their data assets in their balance sheet. And Gillian asked: what happens for that busted firm when such data assets are about identifiable people? Whose data is it anyway?
So with all this said, my long shot for the year is that a financial institute or perhaps a financial investment firm, will publicly change the way they value intangible assets such as data assets and as a result of a change in their investment strategies, probably in 2020 will outstrip their peers thus forcing the accounting industry to change its outdated ways.
By the end of 2019, AI will be passé; analytics will be too obvious; and quantum computing will be the new darling; but it will be the year of data.
(This post originally appeared on Andrew White's Gartner blog, which can be viewed here).