The news of Google’s partnership with brick-and-mortar retailer Barnes and Noble this past month was an interesting read. Just a few short years ago, web technology companies and services often worked to compete against legacy businesses, but today we’re seeing many more partner to enhance the business for both instead. Startup InstaCart , for example, is leveraging brick-and-mortar grocery stores with its grocery delivery service, and there are several other new companies tapping into similar concepts. It’s certainly not the first time these types of relationships have been seen in business, but the recent uptick may point to a new hot area for startups. It’s going to be great to see how it continues and advances.
My early roots in technology business began in data. Shortly after completing studies at UC Berkeley, I joined a startup called Ingres, which was founded by data science pioneer Michael Stonebraker and several professors. The power and potential of managing data back in these early days of the industry was both great and exciting, and led to a revolution of business processes in many industries. But it is no match to what data can do today, and more importantly, what it can and will do in the near future.
Currently, this is widely centered on mobile devices — smart phones, tablets and readers. But as the era of the Internet of Things (IoT) approaches, data and its potential will not be limited to mobile devices alone. It will exist and be available across the entire spectrum of where connection to the Internet is possible, from vehicles such as cars and trucks, to appliances, lighting, and a broad range of other products. When you think about data in this context, of where and how it can be harnessed, the awesome potential and opportunity for positive change is beyond measure.
Imagine a world where data can be leveraged to let you know when you’ve run out of milk and even order it for you from the store. Or, tell you the last time you’ve made spaghetti for dinner. We’ve already seen the power of data in products like Nest, where information about how you heat your home might help you conserve use and save money. When you think about the data world from this perspective, you realize that the most exciting era of the industry is ahead of us.
To stay in the game tomorrow, data companies and startups need to look far beyond what the IoT implies in today’s technological vernacular. It won’t be enough to simply create technologies to harness data on smart phones, readers or tablets as many companies are focused on today, but in everything that can be used to connect to the Internet – regardless of what it might be. By the Internet’s design this can be virtually anything and everything you can imagine, and then many things that may never come to mind.
It will also mean that data won’t just be about consumers, or have value in consumer products, services and business. Companies in the data category will find potential opportunity in dozens of industries, including those that fall within the B-to-B market. With this forward-thinking perspective, data won’t just be used for applications like ad targeting, but leveraged for fine tuning products, services, and business practices in a way the forefathers of the data business could have only dreamt of.