Reading tomorrow’s newspaper today

Cockpit warning lights

What’s the value of yesterday’s newspaper? Not much. What’s the value of tomorrow’s? Priceless. We’re fast moving into a world where tomorrow’s news is accessible today.

The chips light

When I flew for the US Navy back in the 90’s, I was fascinated by something we called the “chips light.” The chips light was the Internet of Things idea long before the Internet. Deep inside an aircraft engine there are electronic instruments that attract metal particles. If a particle shows up, a light comes on in the cockpit and the pilots are alerted immediately. A metal particle in engine oil is an early indicator of an impending engine failure and by detecting it quickly, the risk of catastrophic breakdown in-flight or costly engine overhaul can be avoided.

From the moment I first heard about the chips light, I was struck by the concept of a small bit of information that could foretell something much larger and more important. I truly appreciated the idea late one October evening in 1994, flying into Brunswick, Maine. We were at the end of a long flight from Spain when that light came on and we made an emergency landing. We were safely on the ground because we had advanced warning of a potentially life-threatening situation.

Everyone can have a chips light

It isn’t a surprise that the aviation industry, where lives are at stake, would figure out a way to prevent disasters. But there’s a significant change happening today with the ability for many industries to effectively read tomorrow’s paper today. In a post on GigaOM today, Derrick Harris covers GE and their drive to take full advantage of the Internet of Things in how they create turbine engines. They’re building machinery with 100’s of sensors that provide data on safety, of course, but on turbine efficiency and performance as well.

This applies to so much more than aircraft. What happens when we capture the stream of data coming from every aspect of our business in the same way GE manages a turbine? What happens when we can anticipate what will happen because we’ve  analyzed data and know what to watch for through data discovery? We’d be able to able to monitor and correlate key data and respond before it’s too late for capturing an opportunity or avoiding a risk.

Investing up front

This is the growth path for mobility, analytics and big data and will accelerate in the coming years. Companies in diverse industries are investing in the infrastructure to ‘see’, analyze, monitor, correlate and respond to what’s happening in their environment, knowing this will be commonplace soon. For those who aren’t building the infrastructure now, there will be signficant challenges ahead.

A great example of the benefit of getting ready: Mercy Healthcare’s SafeWatch program. Mercy ‘wired’ their systems together and in the process were able to make a significant impact on the life-threatening problem of sepsis (which has subtle symptoms and requires immediate reaction). In the process, they have the platform for tackling many of the difficult data challenges of healthcare. Mercy’s investment in infrastructure prepares them for the Internet of Things world of many connected sensors covering patients, equipment and facilities and goes well beyond any problem of the moment. Mercy knows that healthcare will benefit enormously from reading tomorrow’s newspaper today.


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Categories: Data Analytics / Big Data, Internet of Things, Patterns / Rules / Events

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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One Comment on “Reading tomorrow’s newspaper today”

  1. Geoff
    October 9, 2013 at 1:47 am #

    Good article. Agree in most part. We live in an exciting era indeed!
    I’ve heard of a recent example of a wearable computing device that alerted the wearer of an oncoming heart attack and even mobilised an ambulance before he raised a sweat!

    “For those who aren’t building the infrastructure now, there will be signficant challenges ahead.”

    …rather than infrastructure; I’m seeing its building ‘capability’ that is critical.

    That is, awareness, with the right combination of People, Process & Technology to respond to disruptive markets, to digital competitors, to savvy option rich consumers who demand customisation.
    Or better yet; to BE the disrupting trend.

    Success will be for those who can leverage ‘inputs’ to have the right mix of products/services to the right people in the right place at the right time….it won’t be so much driven by price….rather by personalisation.

    It’s these important data inputs and predictive analytics that hold the key

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