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A third of Cloud users have their heads in the....

14 August 2012

Data is power - and not just for governments. Some further musings on the cloud, big data and the Internet of Things.

The cloud is quickly gaining ground among organisations looking to streamline their technology infrastructure and cut IT costs, which is good news for the providers of such services. However, according to a recent cloud survey by Kroll Ontrack, while there has been a surge in cloud storage and virtualisation adoption, there is a worrying shortage of proactive protocols to protect the stored data.

Though some 62 percent of survey respondents are taking advantage of the cloud and/or virtualisation services, only 33 percent of these organisations test their data recovery plans regularly to ensure that proper protocols are in place.

Forty-nine percent of organisations reported experiencing some form of data loss in the last year, though not necessarily from the cloud. Fifty-five percent said data was lost from a traditional storage device in contrast to 26 percent who reported a data loss from a virtual environment, three percent who reported a loss from the cloud and some 16 percent who experienced data loss from both a virtual environment as well as the cloud.

Kroll Ontrack chief engineer, Robert Winter says if there is anything that technology has taught us, it is that data loss can occur in any environment, regardless of the specific technology. "The key to minimising a data loss risk and successfully recovering from a loss is asking the right questions prior to adopting a new storage medium and amending your policies and procedures accordingly,” he advises. The report is available to read here.

The Internet of Things
Every year the world of enterprise IT delivers a new set of opportunities for industrial automation, writes HardwarePT business manager, Mike Lees, who believes the most exciting of these are ‘Big Data’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).

“Part of the potential of the IoT is unleashing the data that manufacturers collect in increasingly large quantities so that it can be effectively analysed,” says Mr Lees. “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character, Sherlock Holmes, once said that, "It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit fact" – this seems particularly pertinent in the light of the IoT.

“The IoT creates the premise for a world where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into the information network, where they can become active participants in business processes. It creates a world in which it is possible to collect the big data needed to produce theories based, not just on one fact, but on all the facts – to perform a kind of 'retrograde analysis' to borrow a term from the world of Chess. 

“IoT ultimately means a commitment to the value of data as a management tool. It can be about gathering data without knowing how it will ultimately be used. From the simplest sensors to most sophisticated applications, the IoT marks the dawn of a new era in automation, where decision making can be done using far, far more data. All that remains is for manufacturers is to free their imagination and start thinking about how the IoT can work for them – something we are already beginning to see.”

Big data for the public benefit
According to reports from the recent Future Internet Assembly (FIA) in Aalborg, Denmark, trends like big data and the IoT, including 'people as sensors', are showing how citizens, entrepreneurs and innovators can develop new services and apps for the benefit of smart cities.

FIA presenter Reinhard Scholl of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said good examples include New York City's Open Data initiative, Amsterdam's Smart City programme, Catalonia's Open Data Gencat and the European Commission's Open Cities challenge.

Best practices from the USA, according to Mr Scholl, include MIT's 'Track Trash' experiment which used sensors to monitor where rubbish ends up. And Oakland's data-driven 'crime spotting' service, he said, is helping the city improve security. 

Data harvesting
While on the subject of big data, I notice former Tesco chairman, Lord MacLaurin is back in his former retail harness, so to speak, as chairman of the new retail technology company, eReceipts. Largely responsible for the groundbreaking ‘Clubcard’ launch, Lord MacLaurin is now promoting a similar venture, which promises a rich harvest for retail marketeers.

The technology is being unveiled in the UK this month with retailers signing up for the forthcoming launch in September. It will see retailers issue electronic receipts direct to customer accounts, accessible via mobile phone, tablets or computers, which the technology owners believe will open a new wave of opportunities and benefits for retailers. The trial is currently being conducted by eReceipts.

Lord MacLaurin says eReceipts has the potential to have the biggest impact on retail since the introduction of loyalty cards. He believes all sides win, with retailers being able to utilise customer data to derive a new revenue stream, increase footfall and run their operations more efficiently.

“Combining the obvious benefits for retailers, consumers and businesses, with the simplicity of the eReceipts system, we will see the end of the paper receipt,” he adds. For more information about eReceipts, click here.

Les Hunt

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