The Internet of Things and Big Data – Both Looking for a Killer App

Despite the publicity given to Big Data and (to a lesser extent) the Internet of Things, their practical advantage has yet to be clarified. It’s difficult to think of them in terms of business continuity when they don’t influence the fortunes of an enterprise; unless you count the negative impact of money spent investigating them. A few companies cite gains in marketing effectiveness for example by analysing huge amounts of online data from customer interactions, but Big Data is not mainstream – or not yet. Similarly, the Internet of Things in which phones, PCs, cars, fridges and more are all web-enabled is a conversation starter rather than a reality. Things would change if either one acquired a killer app.

The killer app is what made Apple II computers, the IBM PC and the Internet take off. The applications that gave each its explosive growth were respectively VisiCalc, Excel/Lotus 123 and the Mosaic web browser. As popularity and use increased, so did the dependency of enterprises on these solutions. Life in organisations today without Excel is hard to imagine even if spreadsheet blunders remain a threat to corporate health. VisiCalc and Mosaic are now IT history, but they were highly instrumental in giving Apple as a corporation and the Internet as a public service so prominent a place in business today.

Where will the killer apps for Big Data and the Internet of Things be found? If marketers follow previous practice, they may look for ‘beachhead’ or specialised applications first, to try to broaden appeal afterwards. There is no shortage of candidates: e-commerce, nuclear reactors, trends in illness, food safety and vehicle fleet control are just a few. The ones that bring real value to companies and that can be developed cost-effectively will be the ones to include in the business continuity planning (for those companies). For everybody else for the moment however, it’s a matter of ‘watch this space’ to see what happens.

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