Data is the New Currency – Mining for Gold in the Internet of Things

In our new galaxy of digital information, the value of data and dollars are inexorably intertwined.

The past year has seen steady growth in the Internet of Things – everyday objects that connect and interact with the people and devices around them – and all signs point to this trend continuing with exponential growth in not just the number of devices, but also in the massive amount of data produced. In a world increasingly driven by bits and bytes, data is the new currency and smart enterprises are preparing themselves today with the tools and technology to tap into this treasure trove of information.

Everything is the Internet and the Internet is Everything

As mentioned, the Internet of Things is starting to boom. Two years ago, the only items in your house that connected to the Internet were likely some form of a PC – computers, tablets, phones, etc. This year, we connected our TV, bathroom scale, thermostat, living room lights, music system, eyeglasses, and more. Google has its eye on this shift as well. It recently purchased Nest Labs, a maker of “smart” thermostats and home smoke alarms that can program themselves and communicate with smartphones. The days of the standalone product are ending – everything connects to everything and customers are growing to expect a deeper layer of experience and connectivity.

Big data is dead. Long live Ginormous data!

As we learned in the last few years, the days of big data are also upon us. However, the big data that we’re crunching today was created as the echo of the tech boom of the last twenty years. So what’s next? Some predictions call for up to 26 billion new units of “things” coming online in the next few years, and that’s on top of 3 billion or so phones, tablets and PCs. As these 30 billion or so units of “everything” come to life, they’ll create floods of data. For starters, every light bulb in every building could have an IP address and stream data to the cloud.

To put this in perspective, consider the amount of data being manually produced by the approximately one billion human users of Facebook. Now multiply the number of units producing that data by 30 and factor in the ability for these units to automatically generate an unlimited stream of information. Or just picture 30 billion Facebook users posting status updates all day, every day… for the next 20 years. That’s not “big data.” It’s ginormous… and it’s incredibly valuable information.

Data is currency

So why all the fuss over bits and bytes? Because data is currency. Ten years ago, who could have imagined that Google would grow into one of the most valuable companies in the history of time by monetizing the data behind your search terms or that a behemoth like Facebook could soar to a $100 billion valuation based on our status updates and likes? Virtual currencies such as Bitcoin are created out of thin air and data-based transactions are quickly becoming accepted financial transactions.

The lines between data-based and financial-based currency are blurring with each passing year. You may not have exchanged 99 cents for the last “free” app that you downloaded, but with that final click on the privacy policy you definitely just exchanged something for it! Twitter, Gmail and Candy Crush ARE free, right? They are… as long as you provide access to your email content, contact list, usage statistics, etc.

As our “bank accounts” of personal data grow with each new device that we connect, the consumer data exchange is driving a host of new start-ups focused on the other side of the fence too. Companies such as Personal, Singly, and Reputation.com are dedicated to providing consumers with the ability to control, protect and maximize the value of their personal information.

Can this model benefit the commercial relationships between suppliers, distributors and customers as well? Commercial data exchanges have been around for a while, but imagine the value that can be extracted from an even deeper level of data integration, exchange and analysis between buying and selling partners. Every device will provide a stream of data, whether it’s rolling off the assembly line or sitting on a shelf waiting to be sold. Intelligent systems will traverse the relationship between suppliers, distributors and customers to level inventories and provide instant pricing and commission models based on supply and demand – all built on data-based transactions.

As I look into my crystal ball for 2014, I see a massive cloud of “awake” devices producing a galaxy of data. And as the value of data and dollars are inexorably intertwined, I see a new economy with a new currency starting to take shape.