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Is Data the New Oil?

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Dec.  29, 2020—Earlier this month, professionals from Dell, VMware, and a best-selling author gathered virtually to discuss data and how it is driving the automotive industry. 

Throughout the virtual event, topics ranged from data as a driver of information to software as a driver of innovation, but one question emerged—”Is data the new oil?”

The webinar, hosted by Frost and Sullivan, featured Florian Baumann, CTO for Dell’s automotive and artificial intelligence divisions, Michael Coté, a digital transformation specialist at VMware, and Bernard Marr, futurist, strategist, and best-selling author. 


What is a data-driven company? 

Apart from being a best-selling author, Marr also works as a strategic business advisor, and said almost any company can be viewed as data-driven. Marr said he works with companies to better utilize their data in three ways. 

First he asks, “How can we use data to better inform decision making?” Data can be used to improve products he said, but it can also provide insights into what the public is in need of, or where services may be lacking. 

The second question he asks is, “How does data enable us to offer smarter and more intelligent products?” Take Netflix for example, he said. Netflix uses data collected from its subscribers to suggest new shows or topics the consumer might also be interested in. This is the perfect example of how data can meet specific needs, Marr said. 

The final question Marr poses is, “How can data help automate business processes?” In the broader scope, this can refer to automated payments and questionnaires, but in the automotive industry it looks like predictive maintenance. 


Is data the new oil?

“Data is the most important asset we have in a company,” said Baumann. 

Unlike oil, data can be used over and over again in a variety of ways. Not only is there new data being generated every minute, but the types of data vary across industries and levels of accessibility. 

Baumann says although data is the new oil, it does not come without its own challenges. 

“Which data do we collect?,” “How do we collect it?,” “How do we enable developers to locate the data?,” are just a few of the questions posed by Baumann. 

He says one of the largest hurdles to data collection is the fact that it is aggregated from around the world. Data is collected across countries and continents, each having their own laws and regulations in place, which Baumann said makes sharing data difficult. 


Does software drive innovation?

One of the largest driving factors for innovation, when it comes to software, is the rate at which developers can send out updates, said Coté. Updates used to be seen as something that came out once a year to be downloaded onto your laptop in order to keep all of your applications up to snuff. But in today’s world, updates are issued across apps constantly, some even updating automatically. Coté said it is this accessibility and immediacy that has driven innovation in regards to software.  

Coté said another driver of innovation is software design. He said only one-third of software features are routinely used and by relying on data, developers can design their products to showcase the most-used and heavily-relied on features, also driving innovation. 


How do we build trust?

Data is only useful if it’s been collected and the only way to collect it is by being transparent and gaining the public’s trust. Marr said the first step to building the public’s trust when it comes to using data is by implementing ethical approaches.

 “Security and privacy practices also need to be put into place to safeguard the data,” he added. 

Coté said transparency cannot be emphasized enough, especially when it comes to software. 

“Things are going to go wrong,” he said, “But let people see what’s going on under the hood, so to speak.” 

To build trust in the public, developers need to explain what went wrong and how they’ve addressed it, said Coté. 

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