One of the most interesting aspects of George Osborne's last UK budget announcement was the £42 million funding for the Alan Turing Institute. This organisation has been founded to ensure that the UK is able to lead the way in the important high-tech growth areas of big data and computing algorithms.
These are big news in the world of technology, although not everyone may be aware of them yet - but if not, they soon will be! These two technologies are quietly changing lives and providing incredible innovations that have affected everyone who has ever searched the web, bought something from an online store, or been tempted to click on a website offering something that 'other readers/buyers also enjoyed'...
Big data - big business - big benefits
Big data means what is says, it's all about the use of really large amounts of data, which could come from any source. Big data sources encompass things like a city's mobile phones location and use, tracked by the network operator, sales made in a supermarket over a year, or financial transactions and customer records. Many, many pieces of data can yield incredibly useful insights, if they can be found, analysed and got to the people who need it. It's all about learning new facts, trends and making predictions based on massive amounts of data - making them understandable and usable.
Big data is big business, and sifting through data better than rivals is part of what made Tesco, eBay and Amazon retail powerhouses, and it's helping in all sorts of fields to make better decisions, from the world of finance and banking to medical labs engaged in cutting-edge healthcare research.
Algorithms - your little helper
Algorithms are one of the lesser-known tools that have come to run the world. Using the smartest algorithms has powered Google's search success, helps people find love through dating websites and allows pension funds investing on the stock market to make the best and fastest trades - often now without human involvement in the process of buying and selling.
Smart algorithms help us narrow down our best choices in a world of big data, too much information and too little time. They are little sets of instructions that helps us automate decision making processes, saving time and money by speeding up processes and making connections.
From big data to better business decisions
The government intends the Alan Turing Institute to help British businesses by bringing together expertise and experience in tackling challenges demanding huge computational power. This is cutting-edge research that is open to any country to take the lead in - so it's great that the UK intends to be a leader these technologies.
Other countries have also been investigating the gains that such technologies can provide - In 2012, Obama's US administration announced a Big Data Research and Development Initiative.
In a world of almost ubiquitous and incredibly accessible computing hardware, it is computing intelligence that forms the next innovation battleground. Technology is already in pervasive use in business, society and the public sector - the challenge is in how we use its data in new and smart ways for the best results. Smarter computing through tools like big data and algorithmic technologies that will enable business leaders to elevate their own innovation and success to the next level.
For those firms with a considerable amount of historic data, from sales and transactions, or access to social media content, census data or sensor-generated information (like seismographs), the promise is that by carefully sifting through data regarding customers, the market, price points - or future earthquakes! - hidden truths will be uncovered. And for those with the technical and statistical skills to work with big data technologies, to create algorithms and to make magic with numbers, future employment prospects are very bright!
These trends are providing insights to help improve sales, determine quality of research, improve drugs, prevent diseases, provide better utilities, fight crime, and better plan city traffic and public services. Yet we are only scratching the surface of what is possible.
Big data entrepreneurs - come forward!
It's a good time to be an entrepreneur with an eye on the world of data possibilities. The market is still open for a disruptor to change the way we do business and open up new worlds from the rapidly growing pool of old and new data.
Add the power of big data and algorithms to cloud computing solutions that allow businesses to stay agile and create new services in an instant and we're getting a recipe for a very new kind of service business.
We live in a digital and connected world, and it's so encouraging to see how the UK is looking to the future to be part of the leading wave of cutting-edge technology.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that the big data marketplace could benefit the UK economy by £216 billion and create 58,000 new jobs in the UK before 2017. Furthermore, a recent report from Deloitte estimates that the direct value of public sector information alone to the UK economy is around £1.8 billion per year, with wider social and economic benefits bringing this up to around £6.8 billion, the government mentioned when they announced the new institute.
Hopefully, our current and budding data-savvy and hyper-connected entrepreneurs are taking notice. If the government is willing to invest in the technology the world of business should see that there's a real opportunity behind the IT terminology. Data is a resource - just like renewable energy - and it's there to be used! Get inspired and check out the data your software creates.