Even cows are going digital!
By Dr Dzaharudin Mansor April 6, 2016
- Big data is not only meant for the higher echelons of business
- That’s right: Welcome to the world of the Connected Cow
RECENTLY, I spoke about how we’re journeying towards a modern data culture, shifting from a reactive position to a more predictive, transformative one.
Organisations, governments and countries that aren’t able to leverage these trends effectively will be left behind.
Today, I want to touch on what it means to adopt a data culture mindset – what it entails, and the sort of outcomes that stem from having this mindset.
To have that discussion, we first have to challenge our perception of big data. When we talk about big data, the usual associations that come to mind are businesses, return-of-investments, insights/ intelligence – the sort of imagery that is related with the corporate world.
No-one would think of cows when it comes to big data, and that’s exactly the point I’m making. Big data is becoming increasingly pervasive, having positive effects on various sectors and industries across continents.
The mindset that big data is only meant for the higher echelons of business-making individuals and giant corporations are changing.
Welcome to the world of the Connected Cow.
The Connected Cow
Dairy farming is one of the world’s oldest industries, so one would think that the industry would have perfected its craft though years of trial and error.
Japanese tech giant Fujitsu had other ideas, though – it had developed a system called Gyujo, which uses a pedometer strapped to the leg of a cow.
By monitoring the number of steps a cow takes, the system knows when estrus (i.e. when the cow is in heat) has begun. When that level spikes, it’s the best time to inseminate the cow, in order to choose the sex of the calf.
The system knows that the optimum time for artificial insemination is 16 hours from the start of this period.
For farmers, the importance of getting this right is hugely significant. Artificial insemination success rates today are around 70% with a pregnancy rate of around 40% when the detection rate of a cow in heat is 55%.
If the detection rate of estrus is increased to 95% (which is the level of accuracy claimed by Fujitsu's system), then the pregnancy rate shoots up to a whopping 67%.
Fujitsu researchers also discovered that if farmers inseminate their cows within four hours before this optimum time, the probability of getting a female calf is higher. If they carry out the procedure within the four hours afterwards, the outcome will most probably result in a male calf.
Once the system has detected that the cows are in heat, it will send an alert to the farmer's smartphone or computer, so they are constantly kept aware on what’s happening with their herd.
This is a prime example of the predictive and transformative power of big data – a smart connected system like this is only possible though intelligent machine learning and a robust cloud computing infrastructure.
The Connected Cow story reminds me of many scenarios in Malaysia that can benefit in similar ways.
For example, we could have connected palm oil trees where sensors can detect and collect data about the condition of the soil, potential threats like fungus, temperature, humidity and other factors that could affect the health of the plant.
Over time, we may come up with better ways to increase yield and reduce loss of palm oil trees due to disease through big data analytics and machine learning.
The defining trend of 2016
In a mobile-first, cloud-first world, one of the most fascinating truths is that data is not only consumed but also generated at accelerating rates and exponentially increasing quantities.
For most organisations, generating data is not the problem; making sense and extracting insights from these sets and improving their business, is.
Developing the ability to convert data into the fuel for ambient intelligence is an ambitious challenge. It requires technology to understand context, derive intent, and separate signal from noise.
The Connected Cow scenario above addresses this problem and highlights this crucial ability, beginning with an approach which signifies a change in data culture, accompanied by a mindset that challenges the status quo.
And just like Fujitsu, organisations hoping to leverage this data culture can do so through the same approach.
This approach starts with any person asking a question, and then enabling that individual to test hypotheses, gain a unique insight, and ultimately take action.
Underpinning this individual’s experience is an analytics platform that brings order to data sourced from myriad sources – which in turn requires storage that is scalable and real-time. Together, they begin to form a platform for ambient intelligence.
Organisations today are not only progressively perceiving the importance of such an approach, they are also understanding that the value of this approach (the data culture journey) is maturing rapidly.
In fact, the latest global data quality research from Experian confirms this, finding that 84% of participants see data as an integral part of forming a business strategy; and 79% believing that by 2020, the majority of their organisations’ sales decisions will be driven by customer data.
In short, a modern data culture isn’t just about deploying technology alone, it’s about changing cultures so that every organisation, every team and every individual is empowered to do great things because of the data at their fingertips.
This means bringing together people, IT and developers to create a cultural shift that is just as important as systems and infrastructure.
You snooze, you lose
Organisations that are considering data to drive innovation (in short, adopting a data-driven mind-set) and differentiation in their revenue streams are likely to be the ones that survive and thrive.
According to IDC, companies that embrace analytics will capture US$1.6 trillion more in value from their data and analytics investments globally over the next four years compared with companies that do not.
Embedding data at the heart of a business and getting buy-ins from the people at all levels requires a culture shift. Great importance is placed on making sure data is weaved into the very fabric and culture of an organisation to drive value.
There are limitless opportunities for data-driven innovation, and this requires us to rapidly transform our mindset to keep pace or even be ahead of competition.
A modern data culture breeds data opportunity, but only to those who are willing to take it.
Dr Dzaharudin Mansor is the national technology officer at Microsoft Malaysia.
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