Data innovation voices: How will data transform the way we live our lives?

We asked leading figures in the technology world to make predictions of how things will progress in the world

David Smith, sector director, digital technology and sector delivery, Scottish Enterprise

Scotland is taking great strides in building a strong global reputation as a data innovation community.

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We have a strong and growing number of technology businesses which are expert in gathering data and providing the software and analytics capabilities that make sense of data and drive value from it – companies like Edinburgh-based DeltaDNA, which works with top global video games publishers and applies data science to boost the monetisation of their products.

The increasing importance of data-driven innovation will be a key driver of economic productivity and innovation, job creation and internationalisation and has enormous potential to support broad- based inclusive growth.

Not only is Scotland producing its own home-grown, global data-driven businesses such as Skyscanner but, as recent figures show, we are also securing higher levels of foreign direct investment in the field of data as more and more global investors are drawn to Scotland to tap into our rich data-friendly business environment.

Michael Young, chief executive, MBN Solutions

Data and its impact on our lives is inescapable… it is pervasive in virtually everything we now do, from social media posts and mobile phone records, to commuting to work and CCTV feeds, we are all constantly creating and transmitting data in some way, shape or form.

In fact, more than 90 per cent of all available human data has been recorded in the last two years, and such data is already being used to transform the world around us.

Our data is combined with millions of other people’s data to show patterns and insights that lead to innovation and improvements in products and services, infrastructure and public services.

Examples of how this impacts our lives include:

n Supermarkets predict when people will shop, how they’ll pay for items and even how many calories they will consume to ensure the right product mix and the appropriate pricing mechanisms can be established.

n Health and fitness data is being used to help early diagnosis of medical conditions and to “right price” medical insurance cover.

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Linked with data from wearables which help individuals to monitor their own well-being, this creates feature rich data sets of interest to many!

n Live traffic data fed to phone-based navigation is already having an impact in reducing congestion and improving rerouting. New advances here have seen the use of this data to support self-driving cars to select the most appropriate routes and automatically reroute when delays are predicted.

This is the tip of the iceberg and a short list of examples but there are many, many more.

But they are not without issues. Looking to the future we should all be asking “how we can balance benefits and concerns”.

Many will embrace data, while others will fight to protect privacy.

Data experts will need to align their moral compasses and users and data subjects will need to take control of their own data and exercise their rights. Here’s to the future.

Bruce Whitelaw, deputy director (partnerships), the Roslin Institute

Data-driven innovation will pervade all aspects of society.

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In agritech it has already started through sensors and drones.

This is set to expand massively and from it will come a continuous flow of data – offering opportunities in how best to collect, store, curate and analyse big data.

Then the information flow needs to return to the users – the farmer and consumer.

Here opportunities in digitalisation and easy-to-use interfaces abound.

All this will lead to new rural-based commercial activities and opportunities for the entrepreneurs that Scotland and the UK needs if our society is to compete and benefit from the data-driven innovation era we have just entered.

The end result: optimal individual farm productivity, sustainable food security, reduced and utilised waste, a safe and desirable environment and more knowledge about what, as a consumer, you are buying.

Andrew Berry, director, risk advisory, Deloitte

More data has been produced in the last two years than in the entirety of human history, and is fuelling a fourth Industrial Revolution.

Our homes are connected organisms that we can communicate with by data-driven devices and this will extend to everything we interact with daily, whether it be our homes, offices, shops or transportation.

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Digital data is the greatest accelerator in the history of financial services and is fuelling the rise of disruption by fintechs. Improved data sharing via open banking and the like will lead to new, improved products and services that are personalised, provide better insight, raising our financial awareness, with the potential to embrace all sectors of the community by transparent, inclusive services.

However, we will need to become more aware of how we generate data, the value of that data and how to keep it private and secure – a personal data awakening.

Neil Logan, chief executive, Incremental Group

Data or, more specifically, the way in which we use data will change every aspect of our lives by enabling artificial intelligence (AI) to shift from science fiction to the commercial mainstream.

From medicine to law, 
the traditional professions are already being profoundly disrupted and that’s before we even consider manufacturing, logistics and the public sector.

AI enabled by data has the potential in the next decade to increase prosperity for all, but it also has the potential to push millions out of work.

It is up to us which future comes to pass.

Steven Grier, country manager, Microsoft (Scotland)

We are living in very exciting times as the data revolution takes place around us.

I like to think of data as the “fuel” of not just AI but of “automated” intelligence too. For example, I picked up a car the other day that is smart enough to combine navigation and geographic data, traffic data, my driving style (which it learns), then links that to the automatic gearbox to automatically predict the most efficient way for me to get from A to B with minimum fuel consumption – imagine how impactful that is globally for world transport and the environment.

I’m most excited about how data and AI are going to improve global health outcomes and break the “big rocks” such as HIV and malaria. The work going on tracking and analysing mosquito behaviour combined with genetics is breath-taking and for the first time we can see light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Stephen Ingledew, chief executive, Fintech Scotland

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The opportunity to capture the massive explosion of data from multiple touchpoints provides the foundation for delivering people-based marketing and communications. In this respect, data is the new “oil” and it can fuel a vast improvement in engagement and loyalty as it enables a business to be closer to the customer than ever before.

With businesses expanding their digital presence, there will inevitably be an increase in the volume of data available as customers interact across mobile, web and social platforms. However, with this comes the challenge of collecting, consolidating and sifting through the huge varied amounts of data to make sense of the data.

While many businesses are putting the technical tools in place to capture the data, ensuring that it can be put to use and be turned into actionable insight is challenging. Furthermore, today, data is dynamic and can fluctuate as consumers provide new real-time details and change information through the various digital channels, especially unstructured data from social media.

Therefore, the internal systems need to have the capacity to reflect this flexibility of “human information” and not be static because consumer lives do not stand still; nor do they follow a linear path as maybe in the past. In other words, the data can only genuinely be turned into customer intelligence that is acted upon if the business embraces data as the new oil revolution. In turn, this has to be more than just a technology solution. It requires genuine business transformation in respect of processes, skills, culture and leadership on a new way of working to genuinely deliver success from data as the new oil.

David Goodbrand, partner, Burness Paull

Data driven innovation and new consumer facing technologies are already having a massive impact in the way we live our lives. This is only likely to increase at pace over the next few years.

Whether you are looking for the best prices and routes for flights, to better understand your business accounts and cash flow on-the-go, or are looking for a deeper and richer understanding of your financial position and credit history, Scottish based technology companies are already delivering data innovation for us all today. Moving forward, Scotland is very well placed to become a class-leading global fintech hub – innovating, developing and commercialising the next generation of fintech technologies – and data science will be at the heart of all of these technologies.

Data is also likely to be a driving force for social change in the fintech sector – making banking and saving products more accessible to all, including the “unbanked’” by improving access and lowering the cost of participation. Data is the new… data.

Mark Doherty, managing director and head of development, Avaloq

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In Financial Services, data had always been like the crown jewels: locked away hidden and protected, useful only to the one bank where the data was hosted. But the pace of change is accelerating: through technology, customer expectations, and the needs of regulators, financial institutions now increasingly turn to companies like Avaloq to operate their IT and data platform services.

Financial institutions are now opening up their data platforms, enabling the sharing of data across organisations using Open APIs. This unlocks financial data for innovative new ideas, in a secure standardised way. With these digital basics resolved, banks can use data to improve customer experiences and combine data from various sources. So instead of blocking your credit card abroad the insight that you are abroad could be used to help manage your holiday budget and card use for the bank. Using machine learning and these new unlocked data source we will see new customer services such as projecting potential returns on investments, or goal-based plans with different risk appetites. For the end user, this means a more connected and more informed financial life.

Avaloq in Scotland specialises in data-driven innovation, and how software like Open APIs can be used with technologies like machine learning and AI. With world-renowned universities and a history of financial innovation, Scotland nurtures and attracts the brightest sparks. It’s why Avaloq is investing and hiring here!