Data is the rich resource at your fingertips, but you need to know how to use it. HELEN COMPSON learns more from one of East Anglia’s ICT gurus.
Data is the new currency, entrepreneur Neil Miles has absolutely no doubt about that.And if any proof were needed, we need look no further than the success of this inveterate innovator’s latest venture.
Three years ago, the fledgling Inawisdom was at the start-up stage. Basically, it was just Neil, a couple of colleagues who joined him and a new approach ready to take flight.
Today, the firm has around 50 members of staff in its main nest on Ipswich’s Adastral Park and another 40 split between London and the newest office, in Rotterdam.
Between them, they service contracts – across Britain, Europe and the Middle East – using artificial intelligence to tell the future, sort of.
Simply put, they extract data and marshal it, with increased sales and margins, the detection of fraud and the addressing of security concerns/risk just some of the goals.
“Working in technology, applications and software development as we do, we are seeing the pace of change and the value that the new commercial model around public cloud systems is driving,” said Neil.
“We are also witnessing the explosion in data – in terms of both volume and richness – and so the great benefit to companies of leveraging the value of their data.”
It is a fast-paced environment, fed by an ever-growing flood of information streaming in from more and more sources.
Social media is a biggie; so too is IoT, the ‘Internet of Things’, the now widely recognised system of interconnected computers, mechanical and digital machines, people and even animals that possess unique digital identifications and, as a result, the means of transferring data over a network at the touch of a button.
What defines the Internet of Things is evolving by the month and year as technologies collide and converge. The older technologies of control systems and wireless sensor networks have been joined by analytics, machine learning and commodity sensors of late.
A good example of all that coming together to one end is the concept of the smart home, whereby Jo/e Bloggs on holiday can yet switch devices at home on and off using her/his smartphone.
And the success of all those processes and outcomes is driven not only by the sheer volume of data, but, as Neil puts it, the ‘richness’ of it. Data is coming in from so many different directions today that, harnessed effectively, it provides a very clear picture of the choices made by society as a whole and by the individual on the street.
Neil said: “Data insight, data-driven businesses, digital transformation, data-driven transformation, they are phrases we use day in, day out, here, because data is the new asset that businesses have to help them market-differentiate and to make them stand out from the crowd.
“Ultimately, it is all about the data.”
East Anglian businesses have been quick to get on board. Digital innovation is thriving here. Far from being a rural backwater, the region is a hotbed of activity, said Neil.
Take Inawisdom, for one, and the slipstream it entered. “We are very pleased with the progress we have made. Having begun from scratch just three years ago, we’re now working on some really great AI and machine-learning projects, developing leading services for some very big customers.
“And to have been able to grow the bulk of that here in East Anglia, to have the heart of Inawisdom based here at Adastral Park, is very satisfying.”
And look at Innovation Martlesham too, just one of a myriad of techy networks buzzing with energy. The cluster of companies it facilitated and supported with affordable accommodation on Adastral Park is now 130 strong.
Neil himself is also chairman of TechEast, the not-for-profit organisation established to promote the fact the digital technology sector is alive and kicking in the east of England.
“One of East Anglia’s best kept secrets is the innovation and enterprise and strength of the technology businesses here,” he said.
Personally, Neil established Inawisdom in Ipswich because he’s a local lad. But, that’s not to say he didn’t appreciate what Suffolk had to offer him as a businessman.
“It’s got good connections to London, of course,” he said, “but the talent we need is also here. We have grown really fast and yet been able to draw on the talent we need.”
With a number of successful businesses to his name – his last one, Smart421, was sold to cloud-based technologies specialist KCOM – he already enjoyed good relationships with “great organisations” such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Innovation Martlesham team.
“TechEast flies the flag for the industry and in doing so, works closely with the Chambers of Commerce, the county councils and the Local Enterprise Partnership,” he said.
“People who work in this region ought to be proud of what we are all doing – it is worth shouting about!”