Big data becoming more accessible

Big data is increasingly abandoning the theoretical realm and pervading the business world in more practical ways. And with the increasing availability of data, it also becomes more important for organizations to find ways to harness that information and put it to good use. As statistician David Hand of Imperial College London says to The Huffington Post, "Nobody wants 'data.' What they want are the answers."

Health care is one of the areas that stands to benefit the most from big data, as an abundance of medical information allows researchers to identify previously undetectable trends in clinical trials. In the not-too-distant future, as the Human Genome Project advances, genetic data could lead to unprecedented insight into various diseases. Application development companies are already seeing plenty of opportunities in this area through software that monitors vital statistics and sends them to a patient's electronic health record.

As this blog reported, the business shift toward big data is already having an effect on higher education, as more students seek data training in anticipation of joining the workforce. And the trend is global: the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be 1.5 million jobs for data analytics experts in the United States by 2018 and, according to HuffPost UK, the British government expects 58,000 new jobs and £216 billion (nearly $350.5 billion) in big data over the next three years.

For companies in all sectors, the need to have data-savvy employees is only going to become more pressing with time, as businesses that are quick to make the most of big data's possibilities will have a significant advantage over those that lag behind. Custom database software can help companies in their big data endeavors by presenting vital information in a clear, easily manageable format.

Survey: Companies satisfied with custom app development

Boston-based software company Apperian released the results of a survey of 100 executives at organizations that make extensive use of mobile technology. When questioned on which mobile investments have produced the most satisfying results, the most common response was custom application development, ahead of app management and bring your own device (BYOD) approaches.

Overall, companies reported positive results from mobile adoption, with 60 percent of respondents citing employee satisfaction as the biggest benefit, and 55 percent saying they had gained a competitive advantage. Sixty percent of those who reported a high degree of satisfaction have implemented a BYOD policy. Among the main issues with mobile adoption, security is the most common at 77 percent. Thirty-seven percent of respondents reported a lack of tools to determine return on investment (ROI).

"This study offers a more strategic perspective that can help identify best practices and critical success factors for senior executives to establish and improve their enterprise mobility goals," said Apperian CEO David Patrick. "As mobility in the enterprise continues to gain adoption, defining the optimal enterprise mobility strategy is absolutely critical and the information gained in this study will benefit all who lead mobility initiatives."

In order to address the issue of tracking ROI, software developing companies can adopt custom database software like FileMaker. With a customized database, businesses can keep track of all their relevant financial information and maximize their ROI by investing only in necessary features. The databases can adapt and grow along with the company, and they are fully cloud compatible, so that they remain in line with an enterprise's mobile adoption strategies and can be accessed by remote and field workers.

Big data skills bring employment opportunities

Big data is becoming more readily available every day, and with it come employment opportunities for those who have the skills to turn information into business results. Big data is a relatively new aspect of the business world, but it is catching on fast and in a wide variety of disparate sectors, which is driving demand for data-related training programs.

Salman Kureishy, program director for business and professional studies at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies, tells the Edmonton Journal that the school's enterprise data analytics program has seen overwhelming demand, mostly from professionals looking to add a new skill that will help them advance their careers. "Many are realizing they are moving to positions where they have to understand analysis of big data but have insufficient training," he says.

Courses like this one aim to teach students how to manage every step of the big data process: classification, manipulation, analysis and presentation. All these skills are essential for businesses to take full advantage of the information they gather.

"Being able to manage, organize and store data is important of course," says IBM Canada vice president of mergers and acquisitions Rob White. "But being able to take that data to gain insights and create meaningful information is becoming a critically important skill set."

Custom database software makes it easier for businesses to compile and analyze data. A certified FileMaker developer can create comprehensive and easy to read databases that fit the needs of each company. Training services are also available to teach managers and employees how to use FileMaker so that they can update and manage their databases, adapting them over time to their company's changing needs.

Gartner: Three out of four companies have big data plans

IT research firm Gartner published the results of a survey carried out in June among 302 companies worldwide regarding their views on big data. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they have invested in big data or plan to do so within the next two years, up from 64 percent in 2013. Conversely, only 24 percent say they have no plans for big data investment, down from 31 percent a year ago.

In North America, 47 percent of businesses have already begun investing, although Gartner noted that the majority of that investment is going to experimental or pilot plans, and few companies have fully implemented big data strategies. The area that has seen a greatest increase in big data application over the past year has been enhancing customer experience.

One statistic surprised the surveyors: when asked what data sources they planned on adding in the future, every option received between 30 and 40 percent of affirmative responses, including audio and video. "This overly optimistic and apparently random nature of future data sources for analysis indicates two things," said Gartner research director Nick Heudecker. "First, organizations don't have a plan for what they're going to do next. Picking everything isn't a strategy. It indicates a fear of missing out on an opportunity yet to be defined. Also, there may be a certain amount of hubris at work. If organizations can 'do big data' on transactions and log data, they may assume they can also leverage more challenging data sources as easily."

Custom database software can help companies make the most of the possibilities of big data, by organizing the information and making it easy to analyze and focus on particular areas that will yield the best results.

Connecticut cities coming together for ultra high-speed Internet

Three Connecticut cities are joining forces in an effort to bring ultra high-speed Internet connections to the state. Officials from New Haven, Stamford and West Hartford announced a plan on Monday to begin talks with providers who could upgrade Internet speeds up to 100 times. Companies including AT&T, CenturyLink, Cox Communications and Google Fiber have already implemented similar upgrades at the local and regional level throughout the country, but such services have not reached most of New England.

State and business officials were also present at the unveiling of the plan, and warned that a statewide installation could take anywhere between three and five years. But they also expressed their optimism that the adoption of ultra high-speed connections could provide a significant boost to Connecticut's economy by making local businesses more competitive. West Hartford businessman Charles Ward said that Kansas City, which was the first city to begin installing Google Fiber in 2011, is already attracting a large startup community.

"We are part of a world economy," said New Haven mayor Toni Harp. "The time has come to move forward."

Elin Swanson Katz, the state's consumer counsel, agreed that high-speed Internet is no longer just a commodity. "There is an overwhelming need today for cheaper, easier access to ultra high-speed Internet service," she said. "Internet access is now a necessity. It's like electricity."

The plan is the latest move on the part of local and state officials to make Connecticut attractive to science and software developing companies. As mentioned on this blog recently, a science and technology startup community is in the works in Southeastern Connecticut. Obviously, this plan and others like it would benefit greatly from the availability of ultra high-speed connections.

Google’s startup fund is good news for app developers

Young application development companies got some good news late last week, as Google became the latest tech giant to launch a platform aimed toward helping them grow. The Google Cloud Platform for Startups will award $100,000 credit to startups that are less than five years old, generate less than $500,000 in annual revenue and have received less than $5 million in overall investment. Applicants must already be part of a technology accelerator or incubator or have received venture capital funding, in order to prove their ability to pay back the credit.

As well as the $100,000, the startups will receive around-the-clock support for the Google Cloud Platform, the same one that Google itself uses for its search engine and YouTube. The product suite includes the Google App Engine, giving startups yet another option for integrating their apps with a major platform. Apple is in the process of launching its own application programming interfaces, including HealthKit, which will allow developers to link their software to the iPhone 6's Health application.

The Google Cloud Platform already counts the Khan Academy and Snapchat among its biggest clients. As far as startups go, one of the biggest success stories is Pinterest, which began with a dozen employees working with Amazon Web Services. All in all, app developers, even those whose financial and manpower resources are limited, are finding an increasing number of available options to work with, and major tech companies are making it easier for them.

"This offer supports our core Google Cloud Platform philosophy: we want developers to focus on code; not worry about managing infrastructure," wrote Google's Julie Pearl in a blog post. "Starting today, startups can take advantage of this offer and begin using the same infrastructure platform we use at Google."

Big data’s weight in decision-making on the rise

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has published the results of a global survey of over 1,100 business executives by the Economist Intelligence Unit on the ways big data is changing decision-making processes. Twenty-three percent of respondents said that data and analytics are the most important factors they take into account before making decisions, placing them third behind their own intuition and experience (41 percent) and the experiences of others (31 percent).

Although executives continue to trust their instincts, 40 percent said that data is the element that has most changed the way they make decisions, with 83 percent saying their decision-making has improved over the past two years.

"Business leaders have long used their own tried and trusted intuition alongside more scientific and financial factors to make decisions and this has served them well in the past," said PwC consulting data analytics partner Yann Bonduelle. "As data become more pervasive, algorithms become more accurate and visualization more intuitive, business leaders are realizing they can make better decisions through using data and analytics more systematically."

Tom Lewis, PwC's head of data analytics, added that 81 percent of executives believe a familiarity with data-driven decision-making is a prerequisite for senior management roles.

"In the digital age, as business becomes ever more complex and data becomes ever more available, business leaders need to ensure they know how to quickly make decisions based on their analysis of data," he said.

Custom database software such as FileMaker can be an essential tool for businesses to get ahead of the competition through the use of big data. FileMaker developers can create databases that are tailored to the needs of each company, helping them make better decisions through the analysis of the information they gather.

Survey shows satisfaction among big data users

On Wednesday, Accenture published the results of a comprehensive study on big data, showing overwhelmingly that businesses that make use of it are reaping the benefits. For the survey, the tech services company interviewed over one thousand chief analytics, data, financial, information, marketing and operating officers and other IT managers from companies that are applying big data across 19 countries and seven industries.

According to the report, titled "Big Success with Big Data," 92 percent of respondents said they are satisfied with the results of their big data use, 89 percent rated big data as "very important" or "extremely important" for their digital operations and 82 percent said big data provides significant value to heir business. Nearly two thirds of the 4,300 targets initially contacted said their companies had successfully implemented a big data project.

Further, 94 percent have used big data to identify new sources of revenue, 90 percent to acquire and retain existing customers and 89 percent to develop new products and services through market research.

Narendra Mulani, senior management director of Accenture Analytics, said, "Businesses are at a transition point where instead of just talking about the potential results that can be achieved from big data, they are realizing actual benefits including increasing revenues, a growing base of loyal customers, and more efficient operations. They're recognizing that big data is one of the cornerstones of digital transformation. Companies not implementing big data solutions are missing an opportunity to turn their data into an asset that drives business and a competitive advantage."

Custom database software can help businesses do just that. A FileMaker developer can create databases that are adjustable to each company's needs, helping them keep track of important information and analyze it to obtain business leads or identify market trends.

Apple Watch opens new opportunities for app developers

Following much speculation, Apple publicly introduced its first smartwatch at a headline-grabbing event on Tuesday. The Apple Watch will be in stores early next year, and with it will come plenty of new possibilities in custom application development.

There is really no precedent for a smartwatch from one of the major mobile device makers, which means that the months leading up to its release will likely be a flurry of activity and experimentation on the part of developers. At the unveiling, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained that the Apple Watch will work in conjunction with an iPhone, so many design and functionality elements will be similar. But the watch runs on its own operating system, Watch OS, and has many unique features.

During the presentation, Cook spoke at length about HealthKit, an application programming interface (API) that allows developers to work on health care-related software and tie it in with Apple's own Health app. Indeed, the introduction focused heavily on the Apple Watch's health and fitness applications. The watch will work as a monitor, tracking heart rate as well as the wearer's movements and physical activity, including whether they're walking, jogging or cycling.

Similarly, HomeKit is an API that will link mobile devices with smart home appliances. Other features that were mentioned included locating a car in a crowded parking lot and unlocking a hotel room door. One of the elements that has the greatest potential to be a true game-changer is the ability to use the device as a credit card through the use of near field communication.

For companies that deal in mobile software development, the Apple Watch is a whole new world to explore, with plenty of untapped potential and whose limits we won't fully know for months. 

Connecticut near the top of digital government rankings

Government Technology magazine published the findings of its biennial Digital States Survey last week, showing very positive results for Connecticut. The survey evaluated all 50 states on the degree to which their governments' adoption of technology helps serve their citizens. Connecticut was the most improved state, rising from a C to an A- grade in the two years since the last survey. Only Michigan, Missouri and Utah obtained an A grade, and there were four others with an A-.

According to the survey's official criteria, states that are rated A "are trending sharply up. They show results across all survey categories. Modernization is used to realize operational efficiencies and strategic priorities. There is evidence of meaningful collaboration, and performance measures and metrics are widely adopted."

The survey also details advances in particular areas, with some interesting conclusions for the data sector. According to the results, open data is one of the hot topics for states, who rank it as their fourth biggest priority for the next two years, behind cyber security, cloud migration and shared services. Already, it is second only to mobile-enabled websites in terms of implementation.

Conversely, the report reads, "only a quarter of states report having mechanisms in place to manage and secure big data." This will undoubtedly change in the coming years, as big data is poised to become a significant point of emphasis for governments and private companies alike. As the amount of available data grows exponentially, it will become increasingly important to have the means to process and analyze all that information.

Connecticut FileMaker developer Kyo Logic can furnish local organizations with custom database software, allowing them to gather and sift through as much data as they deem necessary. This can help any business streamline and focus its operations, gaining a significant edge on the competition.