The world is a great big database and algorithmic wizards and mad data scientists are burning the midnight oil to mine the perplexing infinities of ubiquitous data points. Their goal is to put data to use to facilitate better governance, initiate pinpoint marketing campaigns, pursue revelatory academic research and improve the quality of service public agencies deliver to protect and serve communities. The convergence of Big Data, Cloud Computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) make this possible.
The earth is the mother of all relational databases. It’s six billion inhabitants track many billions of real time digital footprints across the face of the globe each and every day. Some footprints are readily apparent and easy to see. Facebook likes, credit card transactions, name and address lists, urgent Tweets and public records sparkle like alluvial diamonds; all easily plucked by data aggregators and sold to product marketers at astonishing profit margins. Other data points are less apparent, hidden or derived in the incessant hum of the ever listening, ever recording global cybersphere. These are the digital touch points we knowingly and unknowingly create with our interactions with the world wide web and the machines that live there.
It is estimated that there is over 20 billion smart machines that are fully integrated into our lives. These machines stay busy creating digital footprints; adding quantitative context to the quality of the human condition. EZ Passes, RFID tags, cell phone records, location tracking, energy meters, odometers, auto dashboard idiot lights, self diagnostic fault tolerant machines, industrial process controls, seismographic, air and water quality apparatuses and the streaming CBOT digital blips flash the milliseconds of a day in the life of John Q. Public. Most sentient beings pay little notice, failing to consider that someone somewhere is planting the imprints of our daily lives in mammoth disk farms. The webmasters, data engineers and information scientists are collecting, collating, aggregating, scoring and analyzing these rich gardens of data to harvest an accurate psychographic portrait of modernity.
The IoT is the term coined to describe the new digital landscape we inhabit. The ubiquitous nature of the internet, the continued rationalization of the digital economy into the fabric of society and the absolute dependency of daily life upon it, require deep consideration how it impacts civil liberties, governance, cultural vibrancy and economic well being.
The IoT is the next step in the development of the digital economy. By 2025 it is estimated that IoT will drive $6 Trillion in global economic activity. This anoints data and information as the loam of the modern global economy; no less significant than the arrival of discrete manufacturing at the dawn of industrial capitalism.
The time may come when a case may be made that user generated data is a commodity and should be considered a public domain natural resource; but today it is the province of digirati shamans entrusted to interpret the Rosetta Stones, gleaning deep understanding of the current reality while deriving high probability predictive futures. IoT is one of the prevailing drivers of global social development.
There is another critical economic and socio-political driver of the global economy. Small Mid-Sized Enterprises (SME) are the cornerstone of job creation in developed economies. They form the bedrock of subsistence and economic activity in lesser developed countries (LDC). They are the dynamic element of capitalism. SME led by courageous risk takers are the spearhead of capital formation initiatives. Politicians, bureaucrats and business pundits extol their entrepreneurial zeal and hope to channel their youthful energy in service to local and national political aspirations. The establishment of SME is a critical macroeconomic indicator of a country's economic health and the wellspring of social wealth creation.
The World Bank/ IFC estimates that over 130 million registered SME inhabit the global economy. The definition of an SME varies by country. Generally an SME and MSME (Micro Small Mid Sized Enterprises) are defined by two measures, number of employees or annual sales. Micro enterprises are defined as employing less than 9 employees, small up to 100 employees and medium sized enterprises anywhere from 200 to 500 employees. Defining SMEs by sales scale in a similar fashion.
Every year millions of startup businesses replace the millions that have closed. The world’s largest economy United States boasts over 30 million SME and every year over one million small businesses close. The EU and OECD countries report similar statistics of the preponderance of SME and numbers of business closures.
The SME is a dynamic non homogeneous business segment. It is highly diverse in character, culture and business model heavily colored by local influence and custom. SME is overly sensitive to macroeconomic risk factors and market cyclicality. Risk is magnified in the SME franchise due to high concentration of risk factors. Over reliance on a limited set of key clients or suppliers, product obsolescence, competitive pressures, force majeure events, key employee risk, change management and credit channel dependencies are glaring risk factors magnified by business scale and market geographics.
In the United States, during the banking crisis the Federal Reserve was criticized for pursuing policies that favored large banking and capital market participants while largely ignoring SME. To mitigate contagion risk, The Federal Reserve quickly acted to pump liquidity into the banking sector to buttress the capital structure of SIFI (Systemically Important Financial Institutions). It was thought that a collateral benefit would be the stimulation of SME lending. This never occurred as SBA backed loans nosedived. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner implemented the TARP and TALF programs to further strengthen the capital base of distressed banks as former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke pursued Quantitative Easing to transfer troubled mortgage backed securities onto Uncle Sams balance sheet to relieve financial institutions of these troubled assets. Some may argue that President Obama’s The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) helped the SME sector. The $800 billion stimulus was one third tax cuts, one third cash infusion to local governments and one third capital expenditures aimed at shovel ready infrastructure improvement projects. The scale of the ARRA was minuscule as compared to support rendered to banks and did little to halt the deteriorating macroeconomic conditions of the collapsing housing market, ballooning unemployment and rising energy prices severely stressing SME.
The EU offered no better. As the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) economies collapsed the European Central Bank forced draconian austerity measures on national government expenditures undermining key SME market sensitivities. On both sides of the Atlantic, the perception of a bifurcated central banking policy that favored TBTF Wall Street over the needs of an atomized SME segment flourished. The wedge between the speculative economy of Wall Street and the real economy on Main Street remains a festering wound.
In contrast to the approach of western central bankers, Asian Tigers, particularly Singapore have created a highly supportive environment for the incubation and development of SME. Banks offer comprehensive portfolios of financial products and SME advisory services. Government legislative programs highlight incubation initiatives linked to specific industry sectors. Developed economies have much to learn from these SME friendly market leaders.
The pressing issues concerning net neutrality, ecommerce tax policies, climate change and the recognition of Bitcoin as a valid commercial specie are critical developments that goes to the heart of a healthy global SME community. These emerging market events are benevolent business drivers for SME and concern grows that legislative initiatives are being drafted to codify advantages for politically connected larger enterprises.
Many view this as a manifestation of a broken political system, rife with protections of large well financed politically connected institutions. Undermining these entrenched corporate interests is the ascending digital paradigm promising to dramatically alter business as usual politics. Witness the role of social media in the Arab Spring, Barack Obama’s 2008 election or the decapitalization of the print media industry as clear signals of the the passing away of the old order of things. Social networking technologies and the democratization of information breaks down the ossified monopolies of knowledge access. These archaic ramparts are being gleefully overthrown by open collaborative initiatives leveling the playing field for all market participants.
This is where SMEIoT neatly converges. To effectively serve an efficient market, transparency and a contextual understanding of its innate dynamics are critical preconditions to market participation. The incubation of SME and the underwriting of capital formation initiatives from a myriad of providers will occur as information standards provide a level of transparency that optimally aligns risk and investment capital. SMEIoT will provide the insights to the sector for SME to grow and prosper while industry service providers engage SME within the context of a cooperative economic non-exploitative relationship.
This series will examine SME and how IoT will serve to transform and incubate the sector. We'll examine the typology of the SME ecosystem, its risk characteristics and features. We’ll propose a metadata framework to model SME descriptors, attributes, risk factors and a scoring methodology. We’ll propose an SME portal, review the mission of Big Data and its indispensable role to create cooperative economic frameworks within the SME ecosystem. Lastly we’ll review groundbreaking work social scientists, legal scholars and digital frontier activists are proposing to address best governance practices and ethical considerations of Big Data collection, the protection of privacy rights, informed consent, proprietary content and standards of accountability.
SMEIoT coalesces at the intersection of social science, commerce and technology. History has aligned SMEIot building blocks to create the conditions for this exciting convergence. Wide participation of government agencies, academicians, business leaders, scientists and ethicists will be required to make pursuit of this science serve the greatest good.
This is the first in a series of articles on Big Data and SMEIoT . It originally appeared inDaftblogger eJournal. Next piece in series is scheduled to appear on Daftblogger eJournal within the next two weeks.