Big Data and the Jobs of the Future

Science and Research
Kerry Doyle
Kerry Doyle

THUNDER BAY – If you haven’t noticed lately, there’s been a tremendous explosion of societal-changing, technology-related advances taking place. It’s hard to imagine life before the Web, but it’s only been 15 years. Smartphone adoption?  Less than 10 years. Facebook? Half that time.  Tablets? Roughly, two years. It’s no secret that mobile device proliferation and better network connectivity are key aspects of technology breakthroughs.

[pullquote] A look at how big data is changing the work force, from devices to an increase in jobs [/pullquote]

But just as the division between work and leisure time has started to blend the line between personal and corporate information has grown thinner. This has added to an exponential increase in data. It’s safe to say that the implications of Big Data play a part in almost every aspect of the latest technology innovations we enjoy today. In fact, this increase in information grows exponentially each year.

The challenge with accruing large amounts of data is in the process: How do we put to use data that’s beneficial—and eliminate information that’s not? This is where new skillsets such as data analysis can play a significant role. Although Big Data represents an area where these abilities are in heavy demand, a host of other technologies have triggered a similar need.

Cloud management. Mobile app development.  Wireless networking. These are just some of the areas that are increasingly vital in the technological and economic marketplace of the 21st century.

For example, the desire for instant video and multimedia access continues to grow at a ferocious pace, especially for handheld and mobile devices. Witness the rise of BYOD and unfettered mobile use nearly everywhere. Increasingly, mobile users view wireless connectivity as a right and a basic part of the infrastructure, not a bonus.

Of course, speed is paramount. When it comes to wireless environments, quite a number of channels are available. But it’s important to optimize for capacity, which requires a whole new skillset for better management and a more detailed understanding of how a network is being used.

In the not-too-distant future, most of our devices, including buildings, cars, and home appliances will be wirelessly interconnected and will attempt to be more “helpful” to their owners. To that end, WiFi skills and certification represent a specialized area unique to the realm of networking that will only increase with demand.

Today, the Mobile App Development arena is a little bit like the Wild West. While app development has truly exploded, the security needs, requirements and different approaches that both manufacturers and IT teams take remains to be ironed out. In the meantime, a huge demand exists for talented application developers who can build applications with robust security.

To that end, CompTIA, the nonprofit industry trade association has teamed up with security firm, viaForensics, to certify a standardized approach to application development.  The goal is to meet the needs of software application vendors as well as developers by offering an advanced, prescribed and comprehensive approach to app development.

Pursuing this approach to certification can demonstrate your versatility and ensure that you stay ahead of the curve as the industry focuses on an effective standard.

When it comes to cybersecurity, tomorrow’s battles will consist of numerous vectors and origins with multiple vulnerabilities.  However, tomorrow’s conflicts are here today. Witness DDoS attacks on major multi-nationals, the Conficker and Stuxnet worms, and as yet unforeseen threats.

Moreover, we live in a world of 24/7 business availability. While personal and corporate monetary loss is significant, so, too, is losing hours—or days—in transaction losses due to infected or compromised networks. Not to mention the hit to reputations and lost credibility.

Today’s cybersecurity challenge rests in enabling users and corporations to have increased capabilities and convenience, while also protecting privacy rights, commerce and national security. To that end, gaining skills in cybersecurity can make one indispensable. It’s an area of specialization that has arrived and will only continue to grow.

When it comes to the Cloud, most users don’t think twice about storing content there and relying on essentially cloud-based services for communications, social networking and entertainment.

However, as we move toward full Cloud dependence, it will require personnel with specialized management skills to maintain these environments and perform tasks, such as moving traditional datacenters to the Cloud. This trend, which is bound to increase, requires specialized skills related to gathering information on analytical data, architecture, networking and storage.

Today, this complex process is usually done manually. Increasingly though, advanced skill levels, not to mention new certifications, will be necessary to handle the complexity of Cloud maintenance and data center migrations.

Mobile device proliferation, Cloud connectivity, industrial sensors, the Internet of Everything—each of these leads to an increased flow in the amount of information to be processed. Taken together, they result in what’s been termed the onset of Big Data.

Increasingly, businesses are swamped with data they can’t use and don’t yet understand for which they spend substantial sums to data mine, collect and store. More importantly, a fast growing share of this data is continuously flowing across interconnected communication channels and needs to be analyzed in real-time even before it is stored. It requires systems, software, processing power and personnel to staff infrastructure and maintain the hardware and software.

According to recent research by the global market research firm, IDC, the volume of digital content will grow to 2.7 zettabytes (ZB) in 2012, up 48 percent from 2011. As companies face this enormous amount of unstructured data, they require data analysts capable of gleaning useful information.

Predictive analytics deals with the unstructured content of Big Data and requires skills in iterative analysis, including the ability to recognize subtle patterns and shifts in customer behaviors as well as expertise in modeling, visualization and using simulations. The real-time nature of this data in motion requires that the information is extracted before it vanishes almost as quickly as it is created.

This presents opportunities for a host of data-savvy managers and staff as well as for those with trans-disciplinary abilities, such as programmers with math acumen and interpersonal skills. But again, specialization is key and capable data analysts require unique training.

However, in an era of an increasing deluge of data questions remain:  Are companies collecting the right data? Are they doing so in a manner that enables effective interpretation of that data to provide tangible benefits? Some remain uncertain as to whether analyzing numbers can tell us what we need to know about our economic world.

They believe that quantifying decisions based on data may not be that effective, and suggest that human insight, astute observation and social interaction have been removed from the calculus of analysis.

Kerry Doyle

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