Big Data and mobile devices can seem like natural enemies in the wild at first glance. However, today's current generation tablets, especially the iPad with its Retina display and ever-growing processor and memory specifications, make it possible for mobile workers to use Wi-Fi or 4G-connected tablets as dashboard front ends to tap into Big Data residing in the cloud or on backend servers.
"We shouldn't underestimate the new opportunities forged from Big Data and mobile. It's not just that customers are taking charge, demanding companies provide them a truly personalized service," says Gabriel Hopkins, a senior director at FICO. "It's not just that companies now have more data and better tools to make sense of that data than ever before, enabling them to engage better and more profitably with their customers."
"We're seeing wholly new paradigms and types of interaction, across a wide variety of industries," adds Hopkins. "Doctors can monitor patients. Banks can connect with customers to resolve issues and avoid inconvenience in real time. Decades-old paradigms are changing to the benefit of consumers and switched-on enterprises."
I spent some time recently examining Big Data on mobile devices, and here's what I found.
Big Data and tablet use cases
Corporate and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) tablets can play an important role as a data collection and reporting end point for Big Data. In fact, the combination can save the IT department from having to run reports on corporate data at every request, because now reports can be canned for users and run from their tablet with a few taps. The use cases for Big Data and mobile devices run the gamut from mundane business operations to the sensors of the "Internet of Things."
"The Big Data use cases of tomorrow go way beyond the data center," says Sara Gardner, senior director software product marketing for Hitachi Data Systems. "Analytics going where no data center app has gone before and to consumers who are not your traditional Business Intelligence users — think power plant workers, doctors, railway engineers for example. Mobile delivery is needed to get the right information into the right hands at the right time, and new classes of visualization apps are required to ensure the information is readily consumable."
"A great example is in how Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and Penske Racing collaborate to win races," relates Gardner. "There are 200+ sensors in the Penske race cars and the data generated, combined with the data harvested from track sensors, provides race car drivers with critical insight into their race performance. Immediate feedback and easy consumption is key. That data is delivered to them both during and after the race through mobile tablet and embedded display in the car steering wheel."
"The Internet of Things will generate an astronomical amount of data," says Gardner. "It won't make sense to pull every byte back into the datacenter. Smart ingest at the edge will be required. Intelligent filtering and analysis embedded in the very fabric of the machines and infrastructure generating the data will be required to meet the scale and velocity demands."
Evolution in technology or marketing?
Never before in writing a TechRepublic post did I come across so many mixed reactions amongst potential sources when researching the topic of deploying Big Data apps to mobile devices. This caused me to take a few steps back.
However, when I spoke to Dwight DeVera, senior vice president of Arcplan, a business intelligence and Big Data platform vendor, he was quick to blame PR and marketing people for trying to channel the hype around mobility and Big Data. This matches with some of the other writing I've done for TechRepublic about technology marketing perpetuating Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) surrounding Big Data (not to mention other technology trends). The convergence of mobility and Big Data could indeed be ground zero, where marketing and PR messages obfuscate the solution.
According to DeVera, "I've been doing a lot of talking with our customers. We are moving to this world of what I call a mobile first strategy. Sales of tablets are exceeding PC sales."
People + Big Data + mobility
"The problem is the people," says DeVera. "Making Big Data available on mobile devices will be more of a change management exercise than anything. We, as vendors, contributed to this problem, because the #1 feature out of all the vendors is the ability to export to Excel."
DeVera points out, "As a community of vendors, we have failed to kick users off their download data habit, and that is something that is 100% incompatible with the mobile tablet world."
"The second problem is we created the what I call 'the mythical tablet experience,'" adds DeVera. "Anything I do on my iPad has be instantaneous and, by the way, it has to be this new cool experience. The way to make an iPad experience terrible is having to scroll through multiple pages."
"The problem is Mr. or Ms. business user is hooked on the data. It's like a habit they can't get rid of. The technologists are fixing this," assures DeVera.
The convergence of mobility and Big Data is still emerging, with mainstream use cases beginning to overtake the niche use cases as connectivity, application architecture, and other technology factors evolve. However, people need to evolve with the technology in order for Big Data on mobile devices to reach its potential as a business solution and productivity tool.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.