Since the dawn of time, humans have steadily improved every aspect of life by applying their intellect to the world around them. We call this practical application of knowledge “technology,” and the history of the world is that of one technological advancement after another. Technology does not advance in a smooth continuous line. There are innovative leaps during which step-function changes occur, followed by long periods of improvement and refinement until the next innovation.
These leaps in technology are incredibly disruptive, providing both challenge and opportunity. Enterprises that recognize the challenge, adapt to the change, and take advantage of the opportunity are the ones that succeed and thrive; those that don’t die off.
With the advent of computers, a new kind of technology was born: one based on the storage, retrieval and processing of data. This information technology, or informatics, dramatically changed the way we view and analyze the world around us. As a technology, informatics is also subject to the same innovative, step-function advances of all technologies, but with one important difference: the speed with which change occurs in informatics is significantly faster than with non-information technologies.
When we look back we view these leaps in technology and informatics as discreet points in time. In actual fact, there is a transition period during which the technology is developed and refined, and then applied to everyday life, bringing positive changes.
We are in the midst of one such transition now as the combination of ubiquitous low-cost computing power, an easily accessible globe-spanning network, and advanced data processing techniques initiates a digital transformation in which everything in the world—every person and every object—is producing data that can be harnessed to create capabilities unheard of just a short time ago.
But data production by itself is not useful. It is the collection, storage and, most important, analysis of the data that allows us to realize the incredible opportunity.
Join me as we look at what the foundations of digital transformation are and what their impact is on our lives, and, most important, how to harness the data through analytics to improve our cities, energy production, manufacturing, transportation, and healthcare.
Before we begin I owe thanks to a great many people who provided encouragement and support while I was engaged in this project. In particular, N.C. Ouseph, Meikel Poess, Paul Perez, Satinder Sethi, and Liz Centoni, who encouraged me to keep writing. Also, thanks to Shane Handy for doing an excellent job editing this book—without his help this would not have become a reality. And much appreciation is due to my colleagues for their help, advice, support, and friendship.