Emerging Developments in Enterprise Information Management

By Dr David H Jacobson,
Director – Emerging Technologies, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Toronto.

In this thought leadership paper, we introduce and explain several emerging developments in enterprise information management that will likely pave the way for dramatic advances in the next two to five years.  Big data mining, discovery, unwritten knowledge, security, social machines, cloud and mobile enhancements, and the emergence of “The Participative Web” are some of the developing areas which will have significant impact.

Enterprise C-suites, their boards, cloud computing providers, mobile network operators, customers and clients will likely find these insights thought-provoking and relevant to improving or enhancing their business.

Introduction

Enterprises in the digital economy strive to grow their revenues and earnings in increasingly competitive markets.  Effective IM is key to achieving this.

Worldwide, C-suite executives, employees, customers and clients have all become highly technology savvy.  Skilled at using communications and computing, they’re quick adopters of new electronic systems, devices and services to enhance their working and leisure lives So much so, that PricewaterhouseCoopers coined a new word to describe today’s users: “Selfsumers”.  The Selfsumer is highly discerning; wants to see useful results and acquire knowledge quickly; keen to engage and make an impact; and eager to develop business and personal skills and learn new ways of working productively and enjoying their leisure time.  Driving and being driven by technology, they engage easily with the internet, search engines, multimedia, social networking and collaboration, mobile communications and cloud computing—all of which increase their ability to participate ubiquitously.  Indeed, “Ubiquitous Participation” has become a way of life in contemporary society for people leading demanding, high-speed lives, and working across geographical and time boundaries.

While today’s users have advanced, grand-scale developments in computer memory and its management have led to gigantic Enterprise Data Warehouses (EDW).  High-speed communications, cloud computing, encryption and colour display systems bring enterprise performance figures and trends direct to CEOs, CFOs and their boards at their desks — or while on the move.  “Big Data” EDW methodologies drive “Agile and Predictive Analytics” by enabling most-recent business performance figures and trends to be updated quickly and comprehensively and be presented in easy-to-absorb graphical form.  What’s the end result? Enterprises are now able to make better financial predictions.

At the same time, “Customer-base Analytics” extend quantitative analytics beyond the borders of the enterprise by predicting which customers will likely be the most valuable targets, when and why.  This dynamic Customer Relationship Management enhancement depends on mining EDW contents and integrating the results with real-time data flows.  Realistic financial models of business performance are deduced by combining this with macro- and micro- economic and market-activity estimates.

Monitoring big, diverse sets of data generated by RFID tags and associated systems used for identifying and tracking containers and pallets of goods and even single-product items generates enormous amounts of data.  Inventory control and valuation using these big data sets requires advanced IM to categorize and mine useful commercial information and display it in digestible form to decision makers.

Cloud computing now has implications beyond its origins of consolidating, replacing or complementing in-house enterprise IT.  For example, small (even tiny) temperature, humidity, pressure, wind, fire and water, energy-consumption and intrusion detection sensors now enable vast networks of these data-gatherers to be distributed throughout office and residential buildings, warehouses and factories.  Collecting data in this way and processing it is leading to “Smart and Green Buildings” and “Smart Grids”.  Whether grids are electrical, mechanical, chemical, retail or communications, they’re becoming increasingly important in managing business enterprises and entire regional economies to the fullest.

A growing symbiosis is emerging between cloud computing and mobile systems.  Smartphones, tablets and sub-laptops provide Selfsumers with powerful mobile communications and computing experiences.  The cloud can store large databases and advanced applications for enterprise and customer use.  What’s especially important to make the most of smartphones is that information linked to location and directional orientation is immediately available from the cloud.

With this symbiosis, there’s been an increase in enterprise mobile workers, as mobile systems and devices have become much more effective.  Electronic collaboration, video conferencing and location-based access to EDWs from mobile devices make it possible to enhance the use of office space and also give employees improved work-life balance by enabling work-from-home.  Employees can also access information quickly, whether on the go or working remotely, creating higher productivity levels and customer engagement.  As a result, the sales process is quickened, creating a higher volume of transactions.

Despite these advantages, there’s been a concern, especially amongst early adopters, about the security of data and knowledge stored in “the cloud”.  Appropriate computing architectures, planning, procedures and encryption for configuring cloud applications are paramount to making sure enterprise users have an acceptable level of security.  Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption between user and cloud, adopted widely for online banking, is likely to become more commonly used, as faster encryption chips with multiple processor cores become available in the next two years.

As powerful computers and “cyber criminality” skills continue to evolve, so do security risks for local and multinational enterprises on a vast geo-spatial scale.  Simple Phishing fraud has become Whaling, where a company’s C-suite members may be targeted by fraudulent emails specifically focused on their business dealings with senior executives in other companies and their social networking and email directory contacts.  Man-in-the-middle, machine-to-machine (M2M) cyber attacks on mobile devices connected into unprotected public and private WiFi networks and “lightly protected” conference-meeting WiFi networks are increasing as tablets and smartphones often contain or link to more valuable personal and enterprise data than simpler devices.  While effective counter measures are available to mitigate these risks, more needs to be done to ensure safety in the years ahead.

When it comes to the Web, it’s entering a new phase—predicted by Tim Berners-Lee some 10 years ago—of “contextual” or “semantic” linkages and explorations.  This includes M2M social networking and collaboration, search evolving into discovery, computing with encrypted data, in the cloud, unstructured reference information and knowledge, and advanced mobile computing.  Contextual intelligence is closer to the way humans retain and recall informational experiences; so, a contextual web holds the promise of being a friendly, collegial and insightful 24/7 partner for enterprises.  These concepts and trends are explored below.

Search evolves to Discovery

Long the stalwart foundation of “search”: even before the advent of the Internet, key word profiles found articles, files and reports containing words that related—as close as possible–to a specific enquiry.

If you know more or less what you’re looking for, then searching on keywords and numbers will likely lead you to articles relevant to what you have in mind.  But what about discovering knowledge valuable to you and your enterprise concealed in vast EDWs?

Discovery goes beyond search.  In 2001 Berners-Lee described what he had in mind for “The Semantic Web”, a term that he coined for machines exploring web-based data for meaning.  Building on those ideas, discovery involves machines (computers) exploring EDWs to unlock and estimate the value of information in files/documents by obtaining answers to non-key word contextual questions of the following types:

  • Who is the author?
  • Is the author “highly regarded” in the subjects covered?
  • Is the author in the enterprise’s social collaboration systems and social networking accounts (e.g.  LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter)?
  • Are the author’s “friends” highly regarded by the enterprise?
  • Who has accessed the information and how frequently and where was it used?
  • How current is the information and when was it last updated?

The advances made in computers and communications capacities, speeds and availability during the past 10 years are now enabling these types of M2M questions and answers (M2M Q&A) to discover deeply buried information in EDWs, going well beyond conventional search.  Mobile business devices have a natural ability to automatically communicate information through their inbuilt GPS, accelerometer and other sensors, which determine their position and orientation in space and time.  Other user information, including email content and browser information, can similarly be seen automatically by enterprise servers.  As a result, workers automatically receive information that’s relevant to mobile enterprise-user surroundings, time of day and current activities, without having to ask for it.  This is a powerful rendering of the concept we call “Anticipatory Discovery” (AD).

The recent Microsoft announcement that “Bing Maps Malls” is an early example of AD.  The map search engine now provides not only street address and route information, but also the names and locations of stores within malls and mall parking entrances.  This is based on the anticipation that mobile shoppers will want to have access to this information without asking.  In the next two to five years, AD by machines will likely be an important part of IM in the enterprise, providing materials automatically to workers based on their business activities and locations during their working day.  For “road warriors” and “airways warriors” this will be a welcome productivity-enhancing, convenient enterprise service.  We’ve already seen the beginnings of this “Participative Web”, a friend and colleague partnering with Selfsumers at work in the office, remotely and mobile, and also at leisure and play.  Information, knowledge and know-how discovery is becoming increasingly practical and will likely grow dramatically as context-based techniques develop further in the next two to five years.

M2M social networking and collaboration

When people think of social networking and social collaboration services and platforms, sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, come to mind.  But, there’s nothing that limits “social” only to humans.  Machines can link EDWs having related interests and sufficiently trustworthy security measures in place.

As mentioned, there are aspects of M2M social networking inherent in M2M Q&A, such as map search engines.  But M2M Social Networking and Collaboration can go much further.  For example, the smartphone application named Waze automatically estimates your stop, start and speed of highway driving and shares this through M2M communication with the smartphones of others geographically nearby, advising them whether to use a particular  highway or alternative route.  The U.S.–based BlackBerry Traffic application is similar.  We anticipate that further development and deployment of M2M social collaboration will increase efficiencies in goods-transportation enterprises by rerouting to avoid congestion on the ground, in seaports and airports.  Following the GroupOn application, automatic multi-enterprise collaborative buying to reduce staple supplies costs will likely also be a powerful use of M2M social collaboration in the next few years.  This can be thought of as an extension of multi-enterprise commerce, which is currently receiving attention in the marketplace.

Productivity may also improve through M2M collaboration with workers.  Automatic recognition by M2M intelligence that several workers are engaged in closely-related activities will immediately provide relevant information and knowledge to all, thereby avoiding costly, time-consuming, duplicative individual searches.  M2M collaboration is likely to emerge strongly as competition in business intensifies.  It will also take place in medical services as populations increase in age and more seniors require quicker, effective interventions.  Doctors can be presented with treatment, medication and rehabilitation options and their effectiveness by coordinating presentation of blood test and scan results through M2M collaboration, without having to search or request the information.  As a result, doctor diagnosis, treatment decision and follow-up will be greatly enhanced.

Multi-disciplinary design teams are common in engineering and manufacturing.  Collaboration amongst team members, and reliably linking appropriate design rule and patent data bases with component supply chain and prototype manufacture services, is becoming essential to meeting project milestones and product release dates.  Collaboration between project team members has advanced significantly during the past 10 years crossing geographical and time zones.  It’s expected that during the next two to five years, scheduling, component procurement, prototyping, manufacture and distribution will be improved significantly using M2M collaborative systems.

Multimedia references

For generations of time, reference materials have been in the form of written or text documents incorporating numbers, figures and charts, where necessary.  As multimedia content on the internet has increased, the question has arisen of whether such conventional reference materials could be enhanced or even replaced by multimedia reference materials, such as audio or audio-visual interviews, demonstrations and training.  On TV, the advantages of filmed demonstrations in food preparation and DIY machine maintenance programs have been known for many years.  In education, training and advertising, the use of video has increased sharply in recent years—and continues—as portable and mobile display devices have become ubiquitous.

It seems likely that non-textual case studies of the disastrous earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear meltdown and contamination in 2011 in Japan will play a very important role in “documenting” the sequence of events and missed opportunities in emergency management, rescue, evacuations, and rehabilitation of the affected population.

Wikipedia, only recently regarded as a “modern invention”, is already being viewed as outdated because it insists on including conventional references.  Even professional content, such as the legal opinion, is being enhanced in court presentations by the use of audio-video “Demonstrative Evidence”.

Today, people are giving greater credit to entrepreneurship, business skills and successes, and entertainment in emerging countries and economies, several of which do not have extensive written and textual histories.  Indeed, it seems clear that textual reference works constitute only a small part of the universe of human knowledge.

In medicine, on-the-job augmented guidance of surgeons on complex procedures is likely to improve substantially by providing in-theatre high-resolution displays of how to deal with awkward situations.  Multimedia recordings of prior real-life surgery using “Surgical Robots” for later in-theatre guidance is already feasible.  The success of robotic surgery, where the surgeon sits at a computer console and guides the arms and fingers of a surgical robot, is already well-established in North America and internationally.  The ease of recording each and every surgical movement provides invaluable reference material for surgeon training.

We expect multimedia reference materials to gain standing and become much more widely used during the next two to five years.

Security in the cloud

Whether or not an enterprise cloud is public, private or a combination of both, there are always concerns about risk, safety and security.  This isn’t surprising as compliance to personal and enterprise security legislation and best practices is uppermost in the minds of enterprise leaders.  Secure transactions are admirably handled by SSL encryption in which a fresh code is selected for each new transaction, thwarting even today’s most powerful computer cipher crackers.  But (big) data stored on enterprise premises or somewhere in the cloud can be vulnerable to determined hackers using powerful computing machinery.  Numerous recent experiences of banks, retail and other online sales and service companies who’ve lost control of clients’ personal, enterprise and banking information attest to this.

The main security problem with processing data is that it generally has to be decrypted so calculations and analytics can be performed and interpretations extracted.  In this form, it’s vulnerable to cyber crime.  Now, however, a new form of encryption, known as “Homomorphic Encryption” (HE), is emerging toward practicality.  HE is a type of encryption that enables operations to be performed on encrypted data without decrypting it.  The still encrypted result is then obtained by the user who decrypts it–when and where necessary.

It was in 1978 that some of the RSA encryption inventors and others posed the problem of constructing a fully HE scheme.  The first such scheme was demonstrated by Craig Gentry in his remarkably innovative 2009 Stanford PhD thesis.  To obtain acceptable security from the scheme would have required excessive computing power.  More recent advances by Gentry and others show that computing requirements can be reduced significantly making HE feasible as an emerging practical technology.  It’s expected that within the next two to five years HE will lead to greatly increased security in the cloud by allowing operations in EDWs to be performed on encrypted data.

Embedded hardware and software in electronic devices have been focused mainly on optimizing performance and making features more versatile.  As cyber crime has evolved greatly in the past five years, attention has been turning to building security into embedded subsystems.  No longer is it good enough to “add on” some type of security software to counter present-day and future security attacks.  During the next two to five years, M2M techniques embedded in devices and their sub-assemblies and components will add a new dimension of watchfulness and action at all levels of devices and systems.  Context-aware embedded security clearly has an important role to play.  These trends are changing the form, expertise profiles and partnering patterns of software and hardware security companies.

Communications and computing devices evolution

Wireless devices used in IM are becoming smarter every day.  Inventive applications and cloud services continue to emerge at a high rate and hardware and embedded software enable entirely new features.

New types of memory, which were being investigated in laboratories only a few years ago, have emerged into mobile devices.  One is “Phase Change Memory”.  Here, a special material is used that has the property to change from crystalline to polycrystalline form when its temperature is altered, thereby storing a zero (0) or a 1.  This memory can be manufactured as a tiny component.  New results released by IBM indicate its high speed and low power will provide future mobile devices with exceptionally high storage capacity thereby enhancing their capabilities significantly.

The famous Moore’s Law of semiconductors has predicted, quite accurately for some 40 years, that the number of silicon-based transistors on integrated circuits would approximately double every two years.  INTEL’s recent development of a 3D silicon chip will likely enable this trend to continue well into the future as well as provide lower power consumption and greater computing capabilities.

Nanotechnologies, thought by some to be esoteric curiosities only a few years ago, have emerged in several fields during the past year, ranging from materials of exceptional strength to entirely new electronic components.  High-resolution colour displays are already available, and battery capacity and length of life are being enhanced by growing nano-structures on electrodes.  Battery cells constructed with nano-tubes as basic elements are performing impressively in laboratory experiments.  Tiny and fast nano-transistors are also emerging.  These and other nanotechnology products will play an increasingly important role in mobile devices in the next few years.  This is certain to occur because “Long Term Evolution” (LTE) very-high-speed mobile networks will become widely available in both urban and rural areas.  What will be the impact? Demands on future mobile devices to store, process, display and participate with other mobile and fixed devices, systems and services will increase greatly.

The emergence of “Cognitive Wireless” silicon chips is providing mobile devices with agility to seek and find unused frequencies in real time, when they become available at the mobile’s location.  This is optimizing wireless spectrum use.  But, there is still more on the near horizon for enterprise mobility: tiny silicon-based TV tuners now emerging into production will enable direct TV reception on hand-held mobile devices, including video on demand.  This will complement WiFi and Cellular high data rate downloads, such as video.  The end result: less congestion in these limited spectral bands and service providers can make the most use of their fourth generation (4G) cellular network and spectrum investments.

During the next two to five years, we can expect exceptionally powerful mobile devices to be available for use by enterprise workers – rivalling the capabilities of present day desktop and laptop computers.  But laptops and enterprise servers will continue to evolve, becoming increasingly more powerful and versatile, as many core microprocessors are integrated into hardware and software to exploit their parallel computing capability matures.  We expect the full range of computing machinery and applications to be available to the enterprise worker, networked seamlessly, so that in-office work moves easily to mobile work and back again, as and when required.

Conclusion

This paper reveals a number of ways in which IM is expanding and deepening to the advantage of enterprises.  As these newly emerging trends mature into effective business disciplines and best practices, specialists will integrate them with current methodologies, working with clients to achieve even stronger business performance.

Suggested reading:

“The new digital economy: how it will transform business”
http://www.pwc.com/en_GX/gx/technology/publications/assets/the-new-digital-economy.pdf

“Digital mobility drives you – You drive digital mobility”
http://www.pwc.com/en_CA/ca/technology-consulting/technology-advisory/publications/digital-mobility-white-paper-2011-07-en.pdf

“Unleashing enterprise mobility”
http://www.pwc.com/us/en/technology-forecast/2011/issue1/assets/unleashing-enterprise-mobility.pdf

“Unlocking tacit knowledge with social networking”
http://www.pwc.com/ca/en/emerging-company/publications/tacit-knowledge-social-networking-2009-11-en.pdf

“A view on cloud computing”
http://www.pwc.com/en_CA/ca/emerging-company/publications/cloud-computing-05-10-en.pdf

“Driving growth with cloud computing”
http://www.pwc.com/en_US/us/technology-forecast/2010/issue4/assets/tech-forecast-driving-growth-with-cloud-computing.pdf

“Making sense of big data”
http://www.pwc.com/us/en/technology-forecast/assets/PwC-Tech-Forecast-Issue3-2010.pdf

“The power of social media – How CIOs can build business value”
http://www.pwc.com/en_CA/ca/technology-consulting/technology-advisory/publications/power-of-social-media-2011-08-en.pdf

“The Semantic Web” Tim Berners-Lee et al, Scientific American Magazine, May 17, 2001
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-semantic-web&print=true

“Waze social mobile”
http://www.waze.com

“Zite personalized magazine”
http://zite.com/

“When knowledge isn’t written, does it still count?” Noam Cohen, NY Times, August 7, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/08/business/media/a-push-to-redefine-knowledge-at wikipedia.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha26

“Homomorphic encryption”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homomorphic_encryption

“On data banks and privacy homomorphisms” Foundations of Secure Computation, pages 169 – 180, 1978.
“IBM’s next-gen memory is 100 times faster than Flash”
http://www.pcworld.com/article/234809/ibms_nextgen_memory_is_100_times_faster_than_flash.html

For more information:

Dr. David Jacobson (Author)
Director – Emerging Technologies
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Toronto

 

+1-416-814-5800
david.h.jacobson@ca.pwc.com