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When data need not intimidate

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As more data sources become available, businesses often struggle to manage them. However, proper data management starts with a solid understanding of data governance which many companies think is an intimidating task, writes ANTIONETTE VAN ZYL.

Market forces are driving data awareness as businesses realise that they can derive significant value from effectively analysing data and applying the findings to decisions and actions, and as regulators tighten rules around how data should be managed.

‘Big data’ is still used as a buzzword in business. But data has always been available – it’s just evolving as more data sources become available, such as cloud, mobile and click-stream data. And with the growth of machine-to-machine technology and the Internet of Things, even more data sources will come online soon. So how do we manage these new data types?

Proper data management starts with a solid understanding of data governance. Businesses also need strong policies that enforce rules regarding data management. Effective data governance involves people, processes and technology to ensure consistent and proper handling of data. It involves all levels of data processing, including data management, data quality, policy management, business process management and risk management.

Data should be clearly defined, secure and fit for purpose if a business wants to derive benefit from it. To achieve this level of data reliability, policies should specify how data should be captured. This quality control measure ensures that any data issues are corrected at the source and that information assets are formally managed throughout the enterprise.

Effective data governance practices require support from executive management if they are to be successful. However, many CEOs do not link data to business value, believing that data is an IT issue, while IT believes it merely supplies the data to the organisation.

Another challenge when implementing data governance strategies is that different departments within an organisation have different agendas when it comes to data. As a result, they may each have their own processes for managing data, resulting in siloed systems that don’t communicate with each other and are difficult to integrate.

There is a perception that data governance is a massive and intimidating task. Businesses know they should be doing it but they don’t know where to start. Data governance doesn’t need to be applied to the entire organisation in one fell swoop. Rather, when embarking on the data governance journey, businesses should start small – in a single department. Data governance requires change – change in mindsets and change in processes. It’s much easier to convince staff and executives of the business value of data governance if benefits can be shown in a single area and expanded from there.

Data governance framework

So where do you start? Below, I have outlined a top-down data governance framework that will assist any business in establishing a single, consistent set of policies and processes for managing data. The good news is that data governance is not a linear process – businesses can start from the top, the bottom, or somewhere in the middle. My advice is to start with those areas that are already in place and work from there.

Plan

Determine the business’ data governance readiness. Identify current high-impact projects and upcoming initiatives and link these to a strategic initiative. For example, one business strategy could be to increase customer retention numbers through a loyalty programme and setting up social platforms to engage with customers. Initiatives to achieve this could include using analytics to anticipate customer need based on behaviour trends and to tailor offers and communication to those needs.

Next, assemble a core working team that will provide oversight, manage risk and assess compliance. This group of visionaries will define the data governance charter, including the business mission, key benefits and guiding principles.

Design

Identify an initial target project, such as a customer loyalty programme. A data governance council is decided at this stage, which will serve as the main decision-making body on the project. It will also determine the decision rights, list key decisions, engage other decision-making bodies and assign accountabilities.

It’s important at this stage to refine and formalise data management – this is where IT will be roped in.

Execute

Go forth and launch your data governance process! Key to ongoing success is to continually measure and refine the process, monitor progress and report issues or risks. At this stage, data governance should be absorbed into the software development lifecycle so that it forms part of all processes going forward.

Poor data governance can cause many headaches for businesses, including poor customer service, limited upsell/cross-sell opportunities, an inefficient supply chain, an inability to automate key processes, poor operational planning and execution, and, importantly, exposure to fraud and other risk.

On the other hand, efficient data governance systems present a single platform on which all different roles and departments can be supported, allowing for the enforcement of central policies and monitoring of those policies. As a result, information is treated as a business asset and is readily available to support evidence-based decision-making – this saves time as the business knows the data can be trusted and does not need to be verified.

Ultimately, the business is able to make decisions faster, its information is consistent and aligns with values and goals, and risk management is improved – all because of collaboration and clean, valuable data.

* Antionette Van Zyl, Senior Solution Manager: Data Management at SAS

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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