Big data goes mobile

Several recent real-world examples illustrate how mobile devices are both generating big data and providing the perfect vehicle to make big data analysis available to stakeholders and end-users across your organization and beyond.

For CIOs in the public and private sectors looking for ways both to innovate and save money, the combination of big data and mobile is increasingly appealing solution.

For example, Westminster, U.K., recently posted online all of its geospatial data related to a state-run, London-based bicycle rental -- where the city’s bike racks were, how many bikes were available for rental in real time and other mapping and bike path data. Within days of the release, one of the agency’s constituents had taken that information and built a mobile app to help people plan future bicycle journeys. Today, it’s easier for citizens to get around and the app is also helping reduce pollution, boost public health, and make more room on public transportation.

This is just one example of why CIOs are so interested in big data and mobility, according to venture capital firm Sierra Ventures, which recently released a study titled “Seizing Opportunity: The Transition from Legacy to Innovation in Enterprise IT.”

According to that report, which was conducted in conjunction with its CIO Advisory Board, when it comes to innovation many CIOs are making big data and mobility an even higher priority than cloud computing and social media.

Meanwhile, a TechAmerica Foundation study in January found that 75 percent of federal IT officials surveyed think that real-time data – something that mobile devices can enable – is already “helping government improve the quality of citizens’ lives.”

Another study from IDC Government Insights forecasts that this year, 35 percent of new Federal and state applications will be mobile.

Where the toys are

The reason that big data is intersecting with mobile is simple: Reach.

In order for big data to be successful there needs to be a common way to disseminate information to a wider audience. Mobile in particular has also been a huge data sources as billions of data points have been collected by carriers, and those data points will grow exponentially as cell phone usage continues to grow.

Today, 78 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 17 own cell phones and 47 percent of those own smartphones, according to a Pew Research report released in March.

Likewise, the number of devices per U.S. household with online access is up to 5.7 – almost a half a percentage point growth in three months, according to the NPD Group’s “Connected Home Report.” During the same three-month period, the installed base of tablets grew by almost 18 million, with almost 60 percent of U.S. households now owning a tablet device. Combined, connected devices now number about a half a billion and growing.

The challenge for government IT executives is how to extend access to big data initiatives without compromising the security or quality of the data or other agency resources.

In fact, the TechAmerica Foundation’s report found that “privacy and policy concerns” trumped “demonstrating the level of return on investment” by a wide margin at the state level – 40 percent versus 22 percent, respectively. At the federal level, privacy and policy was also the top concern, cited by 47 percent of federal IT officials as opposed to 42 percent of officials who cited ROI.

The concept of combining big data and mobility is still evolving. But despite its limitations, the combination, when done successfully, can provide a big payoff, as Westminster found out. That might be why, at the end of last year, David Willetts, minister for universities and science in the U.K., announced big funding for big data, with more than £189 million going to fund research related to the technologies. After all, when you can harness data and disseminate it in a way that democratizes it, everyone wins.