Techno DJ futurist Jason Silva (formerly of Al Gore's Current TV) kicked off the Information On Demand 2012 event here at the Mandalay Bay Arena by telling us all to "Think Big."
Though I'd known this was the conference theme, I didn't realize how big "big" was until the small, but limber, Silva gave his big presentation.
As he kickstarted the event with a blend of hyper animations and visualizations reeling behind him on a huge video screen in post-MTV fashion, I wanted to stop him and explain that to talk about big things so rapidly would allow a lot of his big ideas to disappear into the ether and to just slow downnnnn.
Jason's look at the big picture was an interesting one, wherein he described a world that was "hyperconnected," where we extended sensors into everything... on planes, bridges... even our conference IDs for IOD!
But Silva's utopian vision could easily merge into a dystopia, if proffered without regard to some of the more realistic and mundane issues presented in a Big Data universe.
Small, and petty human concerns like agendas, and greed, and lack of privacy, and bias, and the other nasty little buggers that make us human.
So, though I wanted to go along with Silva's optimistic joy ride, snowblind to those considerations, someone has to be the buzz kill at this emerging Big Data party and explain there are some very real and concerning issues that will need to be dealt with, none of which Silva seemed even to allude to.
Steve Mills explains to the Information On Demand 2012 press conference Monday morning how economics has made big data, not only possible, but inevitable.
But, as techno joy rides go, his was fun even as it went by in the blink of an eye.
Once he blinked, it was IBM Software vice president Robert LeBlanc who really set the stage for the week's tidings, explaining to the gathered audience of 12,000+ in the Mandalay Bay arena how smarter analytics would be required in the new era of computing.
As always, Leblanc started with some facts: Like how Big Analytics is what's driving innovation and market growth in IBM's recent CTO study.
How "technology factors" has risen to the top of the CEO agenda as the number one issue during the study's last six years.
And how it's no matter what part of the world you inhabit or what industry you're in... all and everywhere will be impacted by the need for smarter analytics. This kind of transformational change is a movie we've seen before, first with transaction processing in the 1960s, with Internet-enabled e-business in the mid-1990s, and now, the move towards analytics becoming foundational to computing.
Two IBM customers provided two very different, yet compelling, views into this future, one they're each already living.
ConocoPhillips principal scientist Dr. Phil Anno explained how his organization is utilizing big-data analysis to maximize the economic performance of petroleum extraction in the Arctic (and prevent damage to its drilling rigs by shifting ice flows!).
Keith Figlioli, senior VP with Premier, a US-based healthcare IT provider, explained how they're using IBM technologies to drive substantial costs out of the US healthcare system (he explained that 30 cents on every dollar is wasted on unneeded care and fraud in the US.)
Also in the opening general session, we heard from Inhi Cho Suh, VP of Information Management at IBM, who gave an excellent, if quick, summary of the three PureData systems options.
Deepak Advani, who gave an excellent flyover of how big-data analytics is bringing about the rapid integration of structured and unstructured data, also highlighted www.analyticszone.com, where you can download some free tools for conducting your own personal analytics.
As the general session concluded, I scooted on over to the day one press conference, where I heard some opening comments from IBM senior vice president Steve Mills.
Mills explained how IT economics laid the red carpet for big-data, that it wouldn't have been possible had the economics of hardware, in particular, been driven down to such an affordable level so as to enable these higher performing systems required for big-data analytics.
Mills also highlighted the fact that smarter analytics is a delivery of the real promise of information technology, that now customers are "buying outcomes, and time to value," as opposed to systems and processes, and that it makes sense for them to invest in such projects.
More on the actual announcements as details emerge...