In the tech and business world, few terms generate more excitement and interest than “big data”. Bringing huge analytic power to business and government, big data can be leveraged to generate huge sales and bold new models for business and large-scale projects. Howard Wang, Chief Information Officer for Aden Group, shares some insights on the right (and wrong) ways to use big data.
Big Data, at its simplest, is about getting a large volume of information and being able to use it effectively. People sometimes forget that second part, but it is key.
Big Data is so “big” because everyone is now connected to the Internet and is generating information throughout the day. Every phone, every laptop, every wearable in your building is a rich source of data. When you add smart buildings to the equation, the capacity grows even more. An Internet of Things (IoT)-connected building can collect and combine information from so many systems such as heat, light, water, waste, occupancy – and the list goes on. Two changes have happened in recent years. The first is we can now collect data at a much higher speed and in a much a larger volume than before. The second is because of IoT, it is much easier to overlap information from different systems, from inside and outside the building, and to have this data be very dynamic. You can get a real-time map of what is happening all around your facility, and have data from many points interacting and updating.
The biggest mistake people make about Big Data is thinking that the more you collect, the more value you will see from it. Actually, this is wrong. If you only collect and collect without any strategy, you will not have enough context to find key details and make smart decisions. You can get lost in a sort of data jungle – you see a tangle of information everywhere and do not have any direction to find your way out. Big Data success is all about setting clear business objectives. You need to start with a measurable business objective before you get the data. Then, you collect lots of information in a targeted way. The data collected should all help you answer key questions about your goal. If you are not getting the answers you need, do not panic. You can go back to adjust the sources of data, the kind of data you collect, and so on. Having measurability and focus from day one is so important.
In the next few years, we need to continuously use new technologies to enlarge our buildings’ data sources. This is already picking up speed as smart building and smart city infrastructure grows. As we connect more information that was hidden before, we improve our data visibility. We can start to digest the information and do a lot of things like mining, analysing, restructuring, and calculating through different logics. From this, we will see more and more value from what we collect.
I often say, “Let data talk.” That means, let data help you make better decisions. It means, know how to use Big Data as a tool. Because, even with today’s best technology, it is us humans who must make the big business decisions. The human brain can tell you, “Here is the situation. From my experience, under these kind of conditions, it should go this way.” But we all know there is risk in this.
The human brain has its limits, particularly for operations relating to calculating and digesting mass information. Big Data and machine learning do these operations very well – the human brain really cannot compete in this specific function. How do we make our decisions more accurate? We have to base it on more data. But, of course, it takes strategic thinking and smart planning to get high-value information in the first place. That analytic and creative thinking must be provided by people and organisations.
Data cannot replace what people do, but it can improve what people do. Big Data is about expanding humans’ capability: supporting, improving, and enlarging our potential for decision making. That is the real power of data science and technology.
Too many data companies over-rely on their technology. They offer impressive tools, but lose direction when it comes to strategic partnership and helping clients extract meaning from their data. Then, suddenly, the client has accumulated too much information and cannot analyse it effectively. The value gets lost.
At Aden, we talk about technology with a human touch, and this balance is really crucial to us. We do not believe you that technology alone will create workspace or asset-management solutions. You need to match up the right people, strategy, and technology. We believe in real partnerships that can create a detailed and customised data strategy. The fact that we are Asia-focused and headquartered in Shanghai means that there is no distance between us and our clients. This is where I see Aden really standing out in the field.