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The heavy lifting of the new digital age


Forrester’s Nigel Fenwick posted Dawn of a New Digital Age this morning, a great summary of why we sit at the beginning of something very different from what humans have experienced to date. Fenwick calls it a revolution and ties his evidence to the rise of web-connected sensors:

Consider a world in which every object we use as a web-connected sensor able to control and monitor anything we desire. The pill we take when we are sick that has a sensor in it powered by the acid in our stomach - it sends a signal to precisely log where and when you took the pill – but why stop there … it will also note the specific body chemistry signals in your mouth and gut to provide real-time data that sophisticated algorithms will use to predict your health and recommend your dietary intake for the next 24 hours.

baby-weight-lifterFenwick has it right. This isn’t a fantasy view of a futuristic world. The capabilities exist today and it’s only a matter of combining science with modern tools.  Just a few tweaks and we’re there.

The heavy lifting

However, when I think about Fenwick’s vision, I think less about the science at the point end — the smart pill, the wearable or the thermostat — I think about the technology that manages that Godzilla-sized data moving relentlessly and the enormous challenges of finding, connecting and making sense of so much information.

Then I think about how work will need to be completely rewired to take advantage of new automation and new ways humans will interact with all of this data.

This will be the heavy lifting of the new digital age.

Innovation will follow investment

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 10.50.57 AMThis is why money continues to flow into technology companies who are taking a new approach, especially on the making-sense-of-it-all part. We had the chance to attend the Alpine Data Labs Launch Party last week at their new offices in SoMa. For those who don’t know, that’s the very trendy technology hub South of Market Street in San Francisco where remarkable innovation is taking place.

The morning after the launch party Alpine Data Labs announced it closed $16M in venture funding, a sign that the VC community sees plenty of opportunity in a space already staked out by every large technology player and many startups. Alpine’s product is a web-enabled advanced analytics engine that performs in-cluster analytics. This is a layer above the Big Data/Hadoop platform (Think: Cloudera) and above the business user’s visualization software (Think: Spotfire).

Plenty of room for investment

The amount of money that funds this new digital age isn’t nearly as limited as the past thirty years of gradual change has been. And it isn’t a bubble, as some might say…we’re in the very early stages of something remarkable.

Really, we can’t invest enough.


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