Executives, analysts, and, yes, writers have been spilling out predictions for big data this year, but some of them seem a bit outlandish. Just to be sure we weren’t crazy, VentureBeat checked in with Pete Skomoroch, former principal data scientist at LinkedIn.
Skomoroch confirmed our suspicions and added a few anti-predictions of his own. Here they are:
- No, not every company will hire a chief data officer. Last week Brad Peters, chief executive of business-intelligence startup Birst, argued that the position’s “time to shine has finally come.” Skomoroch doesn’t think the adoption of the CDO title will be widespread this year. But even if some companies do decide to fill the position this year, Skomoroch wonders just what difference such a move would make. If a CDO reports to the company’s chief executive, perhaps the company could have an impact. “If you’re buried in, like, a side unit, it’s not clear that you’re set up for success,” he said.
- No, companies won’t list how much data they have on earnings statements. Skomoroch himself said at VentureBeat’s 2013 DataBeat/Data Science Summit event last month that down the line people would “start to see on balance sheets what are the data assets of those [public] companies.” But that practice probably won’t take hold this year, Skomoroch said. Skomoroch does view data as an asset. The more of it, the better. The more detailed, the better. The more rare or sought after it is, the better. Still, calculating the total amount of data a company retains inside its many storehouses isn’t a breeze. And it might be hard to standardize the reporting of data. Finally, some companies might not want to reveal what jewels of data they possess.
- No, data-science applications won’t replace real, live data scientists. Startups might try hard to automate the process of discovering trends and anomalies in large volumes of data, but software most likely will not be able to replicate the capabilities of humans who are trained in data science principles and best practices. That whole notion reminds Skomoroch of an idea years ago that software would be outsourced. Startups such as Trifacta could slim down the time it takes to get data ready for analysis, but later work still could use a skilled person’s input. Creativity, intuition — “the human element” — still matter a great deal for Skomoroch. “This is knowledge work,” he said.
- No, Google won’t become a defense contractor. “Google will not be the new Blackwater,” Skomoroch said. This despite the company’s involvement in DARPA robotics competitions and its recent acquisition of Boston Dynamics. “I think it’s about talent and acquiring the market on robotics and the type of people who can work on self-driving cars and other things that they’re building,” Skomoroch said. One could argue that from the beginning Google has been about taking in lots of data and modifying operations as a result. Think of Google search, think of Google mail, think of Gmail inbox filters. It’s a big data thing. Now it’s just becoming more about hardware.
So what should we expect to see, then? Skomoroch believes intelligent agents will become more compelling to consumers, about two decades after they emerged in technology conversations.
Google Now and Siri have caught on with consumers, and they should take hold further. But there’s more.
“I think the next phase will be more proactive,” he said. “It will actually be more about helping you delegate things or do things so that you don’t actually have to do them.” Skomoroch pointed to high-speed, algorithm-driven trading on Wall Street as an example.
He expects the model to trickle down a bit this year, with startups trying to put it into action. “I don’t think it will be a huge leap in 2014, but I think you’ll see enough interest in this,” he said.