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2015 — A Big Year for Big Data

January 14, 2015
By now, most people with an Internet connection have probably heard of Big Data. But is it really such a big deal?

If you’re in an information-rich field such as healthcare, energy, manufacturing or transportation, the answer is most likely yes — or it soon will be. “Seeking to differentiate themselves from competitors, early adopters are bringing dark data into the light and crunching reams of IT to boost business efficiencies, monitor far-flung industrial machinery connected to the Industrial Internet and avert equipment failures through predictive analytics.

More than two-thirds of executives around the world who participated in GE’s latest Global Innovation Barometer said Big Data was critical for optimizing business operational efficiency, with just 6 percent calling it more of a buzzword than a reality.

It’s no wonder analytics software providers like Matt Davies of Splunk are calling 2015 “the year of Big Data.” In 2015, the conversation around (the Internet of Things) will extend beyond consumer devices to the disruption in traditional ‘bricks & mortar’ industries like building, manufacturing and transportation,” says Davies.

Fueled by the digitization of everything from medical records to 3D models, as well as rapidly expanding networks of connected machines, the amount of data being generated worldwide is exploding. The digital universe is expected to double every year to reach 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020 — enough memory to stretch a stack of tablets between the earth and the moon more than six and a half times, according to research firm IDC. About a tenth of that data will come from connected devices on the Internet of Things.

Given such eye-popping figures, it’s no surprise that executives across sectors are viewing data analytic capabilities with a greater sense of urgency. About nine out of 10 executives from a range of sectors surveyed by GE and Accenture warn that companies who don’t adopt a Big Data analytics strategy in the next year risk losing market share and momentum. Three-quarters of them plan to boost investment in big data over the next year.

Here’s how the Big Data rush is taking hold across some key sectors, with GE/ Accenture survey findings highlighted:



  • 75% of executives believe analytics has the power to drive a productivity transformation in healthcare in the next year

  • Top expectations: better clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction, improved profitability

Healthcare executives have been quick to grasp the benefits of Big Data, applying analytic tools to improve care, cut costs and anticipate potential risk factors to patients.

Nearly three-quarters of IT leaders in healthcare are investing heavily in data analytics, according to the latest CSC Global CIO Survey, well above the 64 percent average among all industries in the survey. There’s a similar gap in the level of success healthcare organizations are gaining from the investment, with nearly 80 percent of healthcare CIOs reporting a positive impact on innovation.

“The better informed our clinicians can be at the point of care, the better decisions they can make, and the better care they can provide,” says Michael Restuccia, CIO of Penn Medicine, in the CSC survey.

The University of Pennsylvania’s health system consists of 2,000 physicians, with at least as many full-time faculty conducting research — especially around genomics. “When you meld the data generated from genomics with your patient-care data, that’s the special sauce. That’s where the discoveries are coming from,” says Restuccia.



  • 87 percent of executives see Big Data as a top 3 priority

  • Top goals for analytics over next three years: gain competitive edge, insights into customer behaviors, preferences and trends

The manufacturing sector has been putting data analytics to work to make plants and other operations run more efficiently, and those productivity gains will only increase as more machines get connected to the Industrial Internet.

“As connected factories go online, myriad amounts of data will be collected. But 2015 will see that data put to use in a smarter way that makes things operate more efficiently,” says John Zegers, director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Manufacturing, adding that predictive maintenance technologies will also become a bigger focus.

Even venerable industries like steel are getting into the game, with Michel Berret, CIO of Aperam, noting in the CSC survey that his firm is studying Big Data, “which can no be ignored.”

Berret is working to develop a culture of innovation to find creative ways to capitalize on connected machines and data analytics, adding, “Even the steel industry needs geeks!”



  • 87 percent of executives see Big Data as a top 3 priority

  • Top goals for analytics over next three years: gain insights into equipment health for improved maintenance, increase profitability through resource management

Move over high-speed rail. A more-efficient rail system — powered by the Industrial Internet and data analytics — has the potential to significantly improve the transport of people and goods.

The London Underground is using Big Data to improve efficiencies in maintenance as well as getting riders to their destinations more quickly — no small task for a system that carries an average of 3.5 million riders a day, roughly the population of Lithuania.

Installing sensors placed throughout its infrastructure, the Underground is using the Industrial Internet to monitor signal disruptions, track conditions, even the climate inside the cars. Data analytics has also enabled the system to increase the number of trains that can run over the course of an hour, with some lines, running 30 trains per hour instead of 25, according toSteve Townsend, CIO of Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transportation agency.

“We know we have to move more people around London on a daily basis,” says Townsend “As we continue to upgrade, we will further use big data techniques to increase the trains per hour.”


Oil & Gas

  • 87 percent of executives see Big Data as a top 3 priority

  • Top goals for analytics over next three years: improve environmental safety and emissions, increase profitability through resource management

The oil and gas industry is uniquely positioned to benefit from predictive analytics, with facilities often operating in harsh conditions at hard-to-reach areas that make safety and maintenance a critical priority. Predictive maintenance can reduce costs by up to 30 percent and eliminate breakdowns by up to 70 percent, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Columbia Pipeline Group is integrating its data with digital visualizations, analytics and shared situational intelligence enable operators of the 15,000-mile gas pipeline network stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast to quickly respond to potential events.

“We need an agile and comprehensive pipeline solution that could be delivered quickly and allows for a more real-time view of pipeline integrity across our interstate natural gas pipelines,” says Shawn Patterson, president of operations and project delivery at Columbia Pipeline Group.