Whenever information technology analysts and technology media editors pull out their crystal ball to see what may be in the future for the role of information in society, in business, and in our personal lives, it is relatively easy to describe the “usual suspects.” As examples these often include more mobile device applications and an electronic wallet (like a highway toll EZPass).

My belief is that a good way to view what the future holds for innovations with information technology is to see it from the position of the individual. People will increasingly want personalization. They will want what they choose to want and not necessarily what someone thinks they want. That is they will want to customize their relationship with information to their personal preferences.

The millennials often demonstrate this. They choose their own mobile device apps, expect restaurants to offer their version of a meal, and use a DVR to schedule only the television shows that they want to view when they want to view them.

With that in mind, here are my predictions of future applications of information and Big Data:

Sports television statistics

Avid sports fans love statistics. Increasingly sports telecasts are raising the bar for viewers. For example, televised golf tournaments will display for each golf course hole the distribution of the golfers’ number of eagles, birdies, pars, single bogies, and multiple bogies during the tournament. The display will go beyond just a table with numbers to a colorful histogram for quicker visualization. (Your mother said “Looks are not everything”. She lied to you. They are.) The golf broadcast viewer will also be able to control capabilities to further drill down compare each golfer’s performance such as their tee-off drive lengths and putting.

Factory optimization

The continuum of analytics is shifting from descriptive, diagnostic, and predictive to prescriptive analytics. Managers can select what they want to optimize. Their choices can include equipment capacity utilization, product sales, product profits, delivery schedule times, or any other selection. (Do you remember the “objective function” with linear programming? Or did you take that statistics course in college and just want a passing grade and forget what you learned?)

DNA testing

Individuals will be able to have their DNA tested to detect potential diseases or disorders they may potentially have in the future. Advances in medicine will prevent their ailments and suffering.

Home utilities monitoring

As the awareness of environmental sustainability and conservation increases, water and power utilities will offer real-time and summarized “smart” sensor metering of usage. The user can flexibly segment their monitoring to specific home appliances and devices ranging from a clothes washer and dryer to a toaster oven. They can measure water consumed from taking a shower compared to a load in their dishwasher or clothes washing machine to better understand where their opportunities are to conserve. The utilities companies will provide benchmarked feedback, normalized by the size of one’s home and its number of residents, so that households can assess how effective their utilities conversation is to compared to similar households.

Preventive asset maintenance

Equipment and devices inevitably experience malfunctions. The worst case is that they breakdown. Scheduled preventive maintenance, like lubricating a machine, mitigates equipment failures. In the future, sensors will detect an imminent problem prior to a scheduled maintenance.

Smart street parking

Cities with extreme automobile traffic create frustrations for drivers seeking street parking. With sensors and a mobile app, drivers can locate where an available parking space exists. The city can variably adjust the parking meter prices throughout the day to manage supply with demand, from peak load to less peak load time periods, to assure there will be constant parking spaces available.

Freight and inventory movement and storage

With sensors, individual items ranging from freight packages to individual items in a retail store, individuals and businesses can manage their distribution and storage. Households will have alerts to when food is nearing spoilage in the refrigerators.

Government social services

Public sector agencies will provide their employees substantially better information to serve citizens. For example, case workers for children at risk of abuse can monitor the relationships in social networks, such as moves of children to foster homes or potentially unreliable or risky relatives. They can drill down to see possible criminal records of the caregivers for the purpose of mitigating risk or harm to a child.

Traffic light throughput flow

With sensors in automobiles and along streets, traffic lights will change from red to green in real time based on the density and speed of the autos to speed the flow and reduce the wait time for drivers. Eventually with driverless cars all communicating with each other traffic lights may become obsolete relics of the past.

Some of these uses of information are already in pilot stages. A software vendor for factory optimization already exists. Eventually these uses of data with algorithms will be commonplace. We are in the Internet of Things (IoT) era. With the acceleration of analytics and big data, at this point in time if you can imagine a use for data it will likely become a reality. What are the consequences? My examples are generally desirable, but some cross the line of invading one’s privacy. Let us hope we are governed by global leaders and governments who know where and how to draw that line.

We are moving from possibilities to probabilities to the actual existence of a solution or aid to living a less stressful and safer life.

(About the author: Gary Cokins is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC, an advisory firm. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker and author in advanced cost management and performance improvement systems; previously a principal consultant with SAS. You can contact him at gcokins@garycokins.com. For more of Cokins' unique look at the world, visit his website at www.garycokins.com .)

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