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Forks, Seinfeld, Toilet Paper, and the Internet of Things

If forks are changing, what makes you think that your databases will not?
Feb | 1 | 2013

Feb | 1 | 2013

As I write this, CES 2013 is in full swing. The number of gadgets, gizmos, and doohickeys is nothing short of amazing. There are more than two football fields worth of Apple accessories alone.

Now, I’m used to CES oddities. For instance, last year I saw the iToilet. (No, I’m not making that up.) As for 2013, one little device has garnered quite a bit of buzz: the HAPIfork. From an article in The Herald:

The unusual piece of cutlery, due in April, has sensors in its base that measures how fast the user is eating, as well as when and how much they’re consuming.

Spokesman Philippe Monteiro Da Rocha said users could upload eating results to a smartphone and the smart fork was designed to teach users “to eat more slowly to aid digestion”.

When the HAPIfork comes out, you’ll be able to plug it into your computer to download and analyze your eating data. A Bluetooth version is expected later in 2013.

Innovation and Big Data

Think about it. There really hasn’t been a great deal of innovation in cutlery in my lifetime. In this way, it’s quite a bit like toilet paper, as this Seinfeld scene illustrates:

But enough about toilet paper. Thanks to advances in sensors and nanotechnology, The Internet of Things is arriving—and fast. We’ll be able to track what we’re doing more easily and comprehensively than ever before, a movement known as self-quantification.

I can see a day in the near future in which machines will generate more data than people directly—and consciously—do. Yes, we’ll still upload videos to YouTube, tweet like crazy, and blog and review products. We’ll still buy things. But that data will ultimately pale in comparison to the data produced automatically by appliances, cell phones, thermostats, automobiles, and the like.

If forks are changing, what makes you think that your databases will not?

Simon Says

Organizations would do well to start preparing for this very different data environment right now. It’s coming, even if we’re not entirely sure about when.

It’s time to explore alternative data storage methods and solutions. Relational databases aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but they just don’t play nice with Big Data. SQL statements don’t work on petabytes of unstructured data. Think about Hadoop, columnar databases, NewSQL, and other NoSQL alternatives. The new boss just isn’t the same as the old boss.

If forks are changing, what makes you think that your databases will not?


What say you?

I wrote this post as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program.

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