Didier Goepfert argues that real-time data has real value for people generating it, and there is now an opportunity for them to regain control and even be able to monetize their data.
Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum named mobile, cloud, AI and IoT as the four technology superpowers shaping the world. There’s no doubting that those four technologies have already played a massive role in transforming humanity. However, there is something (which the WEF failed to mention) that binds those innovations and gives them their power to shape the world. That ingredient is real-time data.
Data itself is the world’s largest growing commodity: 90% of the world’s information has been produced since 2016 alone. That statistic makes it clear that in recent years there has been a huge explosion in data creation. However, when it comes to value generation, real-time data (RTD) is in a class of its own.
Unlike regular data, RTD is information that, once gathered, is delivered to its end user with as little delay as possible, to enable organizations to transform their operations. Instead of reacting to historical data they can use live information sources to monitor trends as they take place allowing them to anticipate the future and adjust accordingly. In other words, reactions based on insights now take place not weeks and months but in minutes and seconds.
We can already see RTD being generated all around us. Be it binge-watching on Netflix, swiping right (or left) on Tinder, going on a hike while wearing a smartwatch or just sitting in a traffic jam on your morning commute, RTD has made financial markets, social media, IoT sensors and transportation far more efficient and insightful. It is already driving economies and influencing almost every industry in existence today.
And yet there are two issues that currently plague us. Why are we still under utilizing RTD? And why are the generators of that data (ordinary people) receiving almost nothing in return? Is it possible to make the RTD economy more equitable and thereby open up the possibility of even more useful data being exploited?
When should we start to pay attention?
According to Forrester Research, about 66% of data collected goes to waste without being analyzed at all. If this much collected data is going to waste, then we can also assume that the proportion of real-time data going unanalyzed is much higher. And this, unfortunately, is only the beginning. According to a DataAge 2025 report, it is predicted that the amount of data produced in 2025 will reach 163 Zettabytes (one Zettabyte being equivalent to a trillion gigabytes).
Connected devices – the machines and devices we use day to day that are being connected to the internet – are behind much of this growth. Currently, it is estimated there are around 20 billion connected devices in circulation, a number that is set to double in the next five years.
Such an overwhelming quantity of data will see companies struggle to resource effectively, leaving them unable to keep it free from seemingly innumerable abuses of data as a commodity, to the point at which data leaks and hacks have become an uncomfortably regular occurrence. Blockchain is considered a solution to remedy this situation. Shifting data trading to decentralized platforms can ensure data is protected and transactions remain secure.
But even when data is secured there is a further issue around interpreting the data. For that, artificial intelligence (AI) can refine, interpret and extract value from the data. In this case too, a blockchain-based solution will help certify the objectivity of the information, as the last thing you want to have is a centralized AI that may lead you to a biased outcome of the analysis.
Rather than having a middleman control your data, a decentralized structure allows for the exchange of data on an individual’s or entity’s own terms and enables its participants to buy or subscribe to data streams.
How can we all win with real-time data?
Currently, the value of RTD has been extracted only by a handful of companies. But if everyone from large multinationals to ordinary households will become producers of this valuable commodity, then how do we get reimbursed or make a profit from it?
Data monetization, whereby users actually make money by providing data instead of handing it over for free, will eventually become the norm as a result of developments in blockchain technology. You will be able to sell your RTD to data marketplaces, through millions of micro transactions each day, to be purchased by the likes of maintenance companies, manufacturers, analytics companies, research institutions, and so on. In time, the vast amount of data we passively produce every day will reap real and tangible rewards. Taking control of this valuable commodity, we can change the fate of our data using marketplaces to sell information to all of the companies and organizations vying for it, that, to date, have simply taken it.
Imagine a world where the sensors in your car can pick up on the irregularities of road surfaces, like potholes or black ice, or even provide feedback on your engine’s performance. Through RTD, this information can be made accessible through a data marketplace or sent directly to highway maintenance companies, who can use the data to prevent further damage or accidents or, perhaps, to your local mechanic who can help spot a breakdown before it occurs. All of these developments contribute to a smarter, safer city.
With the rise of data production comes the inherent rise of RTD, further highlighting it as a must-have tech superpower. Ignoring RTD ultimately means getting left behind, so jump on board; the real real-time data economy is on its way!
Didier Goepfert, is partnerships ambassador at Streamr, which tokenizes streaming real-time data to enable a new way for machines and people to deliver and trade it on a decentralized P2P network.