Information: The Next Natural Resource

TASA ID: 1335


I’ve spent my career looking at how large quantities of complex information affects every part of our lives and this is the most exciting time to be doing that.  Information affects finances.  Information affects your health.  It affects the life choices presented to you.  It cannot be overstated how important the accumulation of enormous sums of detailed data about all of us and every aspect of business is.

Ten years ago, who would have imagined that so much of the planet would be photographed, and those photographs made widely available, as in Google Earth? Or, who would have imagined that we would be so willing to share large amounts of personal information through public and quasi-public outlets like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare?

How much data are we talking about?  The earth generated about four zettabytes of digital data in 2013. IDC forecasts that we will generate 40 zettabytes (ZB) by 2020.  Now, all that data isn’t used, but increasingly, more of it is. And it’s not just stored once.  Data with value is branched off into numerous databases across multiple companies.  In only the last few years, as much data has been generated as had previously ever existed. 

The Rise of Machine Data

It is machines that are primarily responsible.  Machine data contains critical insights.  It allows us to do unprecedented triangulation of physical objects, including all of us.

Unlike traditional structured data– for example data stored in a traditional relational database for batch reporting – machine data is non-standard, highly diverse, dynamic and high volume.  

For example, each of the underlying customer touch systems in a product purchase can generate millions of machine data events daily. When we look more closely at the data, we see that it contains valuable information – customer, order, time waiting on hold, twitter id … what was tweeted.

If you can correlate and visualize related events across these disparate sources, you can build a picture of activity, behavior and experience. And if you can do all of this in real-time, you can respond more quickly to events that matter.

You can extrapolate this example to a wide range of use cases – security and fraud, transaction monitoring and analysis, web analytics, IT operations and so on.

The Future Sources of Digital Data

We’re on the way to 50 billion connected devices.  Processors are embedded in things everywhere.  Most physical objects are on the way to being online.  Internet Protocol 6 will allow for 78 octillion (billion billon billion) simultaneous connections.  The internet in a few years will swell from the size of a relative baseball to the sun.   Here are just a few of the advances to come, all of which will create digital data:

  • The Pill Cam, which you swallow and it takes photos of your internals - one of many under skin devices. 
  • The Bodytel, the Glucotel and the IHealth Oximeter for no-sting blood measurements. 
  • Trash cans that sense their fullness so they can do compaction and call for emptying over wifi.
  • Vending that takes pictures of you and shows images of what people like you buy – and what the vending will prefer you buy now.
  • The Moticam, which captures everything a microscope looks at.
  • The Bodyguardian, which allows physicians to monitor biometric data around the clock.
  • Transportation companies prevent derailments caused by failing wheels and bearings. There are 20 million sensor readings that spot 1500 issues per day with the wheels and bearings at Union Pacific.

Companies that can harness this data can benefit accordingly.  Industries that are growing fastest are those that are adopting technology and using data to understand themselves and within an industry, companies that are best harnessing their data are growing fastest.

Companies are beginning to value information more highly than any individual transaction or supporting process.  What could be more important to a retailer?  Making a sale or understanding that customer x would make that sale at that time in that store?  It is the latter because that affects a life-long relationship – if you know what to do with the data.

“Software Eats the World”

All of this relates to Marc Andresson’s claim that “software eats the world.”  What it means is that every industry is becoming a software industry and a data-intensive industry.  We really can’t afford not to store and process more data if we want to be successful and keep improving relative to peers.

For example, the data generated from sensor networks can be terabytes per second.  A trans-Atlantic flight generates 650 terabytes of data from the airplane engine sensors. There is a lot of value in this information informing the repair and optimal use of the aircraft.

Or consider a truck-based asset delivery customer with average journey times of 19.6 hours for delivery corridor. A combination of tracking and insight allowed the discovery of floating optimal departure time across each day of the week. Scheduling departures during these times reduces the journey duration up to 48%. Missing them can add over 100% to journey times which doubles the cost.

However, when you have an abundance of something, your relationship with that something changes.  

To understand the enormity of the potential of data, let’s go back to the Industrial Revolution.  That’s when there was an exodus of people from agriculture into manufacturing and the country urbanized en masse.  We are now in the early throes of the Information Revolution and jobs are being reshuffled with higher value placed on those who can incorporate different kinds of information into every job. Who can use information to do their jobs?

There will be mistakes on that journey.

Our personal proclivities and psychographics are now in private hands.  Sort of.  Those private hands have a jaded view of what that is.  Historically, corporations used information to make judgments about you - and this was mostly done on paper and barely usable - now they reach into the (landmine) data caverns of third-party curators of our digital footprints.  If it can be monetized, it will be.  But the curation today is in its infancy.

This curation requires the cooperation of the owners of the data – quite often application companies and also the people implicated in the use - to agree to share.    

Are you a cigar smoker?  Well, you did subscribe to Cigar Afficiando.  Do you own a horse?  Well, you do live on a lot zoned for horses.  You get the point.  Scores of people across thousands of dimensions are being calculated and often with imprecise data.

Companies know that if they can accurately anticipate your next move, they have a tremendous advantage in the market. But stores greeting you by name and recalling your last purchase, like in the movie Minority Report, are the tip of the iceberg of possibilities for how people will be treated in the Information Revolution.
Companies also know this interest in data extends to other companies and increasingly create lines of business for their data.  It’s a ‘Wild West’ of data.

Our loose digital cues become sacrosanct in the mad rush to label us so companies can take informed actions.  At the same time, companies are building their data science to handle more nuances in our data so they can treat us, more or less, as individuals.  Until the data is accurate and the science is vastly improved, there will be errors.  And companies have repeatedly shown their willingness to accept this and take chances.

It makes you wonder what other data we might be wiling - or coerced - to give up to give business an edge. We’ve only seen the first pitch of this game.  What else do we have to give?  We give our clicks, our corporate interactions go into that Wild West I spoke of and there’s a maelstrom of analysis over it. 
How about our DNA?  We could get very personal there.  At some level, we can skip all other data because the DNA is definitive about, well, just about everything.  Although I’m not sure that ship has to sail for there to be a vastly different human experience from what we have today.

We are a ways off from DNA harvesting and understanding.  It’s being worked on, but know that the commensurate technology is there to do anything a company wants to do with today’s data.  Companies are actually able to afford and store to process much more data than they are storing and processing today.  Business needs to be planning for that. What data could it use?

Business has clear upward trends of spending on big data.  It’s projected to be the top item of spend in many industries.  Companies are adopting Hadoop and NoSQL, although larger companies struggle to get them into production.  That will get fixed with the advent of more robust systems management tools and the increased pressure to save all data at lower costs.  Graph database is the fastest growing database category.  Streaming data is becoming more common for real-time data analysis.  All of these involve big data and all were barely spoke of 10 years ago.

Most businesses have to admit that no matter what business they are in, they are in the business of information and everything else simply allows them to pursue business-as-usual.

So data is valuable.  It gives business the view it needs to understand and improve itself.  This adoption has driven the improvements in hardware.  And while data is proving itself to be the next natural resource, there is a dark side.  Data misinterpretation.  Data misrepresentation.  Hacking is at an all-time high.  All the IoT devices are susceptible. 

I will now discuss how the value of data demands that we capture its value in environments we control. “Let no data escape” must be the mantra of our systems development. However, we don’t need to store all data forever.  We don’t even need to store every piece of data, but we do need to glean every possible value out of every data element possible.

For example, high-volume data can be used in a streaming sense of determining if it is useful to real-time applications of next-best-offer, fraud detection, account verification, etc.  It doesn’t have to be stored anywhere. However, the analytic value of the transaction could be pulled into the profiles in master data management and the data could move on to the data warehouse for long-term storage for reporting.
Data can also be interesting from the third-party data marketplace.  It is well past time to think of data as an asset and think about what data you could use to your advantage. Chances are that data is available. Is your team?

This mantra implies that we must grow the data science of our organization to deal with the many and varied forms of data. While everyone will not be a degreed data scientist, the individuals in the organization that can deal with the greatest amount of information will be most successful. Gone are the days when a valued job gets the “data drop” monthly and proceeds without new information for a month or longer. Gone are the days when a valued job deals with only one type of information.

Those jobs exist, but they are being devalued. The degree that one can capitalize on the next natural resource of information is the degree to which one will be valued in the information revolution that is upon us.

All of this cannot be accomplished without an intense focus on the many and growing technical bases that can be used to store, view and manage data.  There are many now, more than ever, that have merit in organizations today, which is why I advocate companies have a Chief Data Architect, or similar, position to govern the introduction of new data technologies.

The vendor market has kept up.  As these systems continue to double their price-performance, bandwidth and storage capabilities annually, all things become possible.

Technologies to Deploy Now

  • Hadoop/Spark Ecosystem – This ecosystem will evolve, but the foundation of scale-out file systems without overhead and moving towards stronger non-functionals, will not change.
  • Master Data Management – Despite the intense resistance to sharing that these projects create, efficiently collecting or generating data to share in small and large ways is essential to the bottom line; the generation capabilities of MDM are increasingly being required.
  • Internet of Things – Though not a technology, a consideration of using the internet as the processing backbone of new applications is increasingly compelling.
  • Cloud – It’s hard to imagine just “cloud” as being a category, but at least starting there, it is a major disruptive force to IT-as-we-know-it.
  • NoSQL – Perhaps the moniker will morph again, this time away from “not only SQL” to something that doesn’t imply its origination as the antithesis of a programming language; anyway, online digital strategies simply need to process too much information for any other operational approach.

We are in the data economy and it is the next natural resource.  Unlike other natural resources, every business must have a relationship with this one.  Also unlike other natural resources, it is not entirely evident what that relationship needs to be.  We need to figure it out in earnest.  And I hope we keep the balance in favor of the human experience. 

We will not run out of data, but we may be overwhelmed by it.  

This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of TASA. Contact for any questions.


Request this expert here

Previous The Use of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Civil Litigation
Next What Plagiarism Is – and Is Not
Tasa ID1335


Let Us Find Your Expert 


Search Experts

TASA provides a variety of quality, independent experts who meet your case criteria. Search our extensive list of experts now.

Search Experts


  • I think it's always good to have access to experts when [TASA] make[s] the process so easy."

    Scott McIntosh, Lewis McIntosh & Teare, Royersford, PA

  • As a busy practitioner, managing a sizeable caseload, I can use all of the help available to me. If I can outsource a task, particularly one as important as securing a qualified expert, I will jump at the opportunity. I use TASA in nearly every case where I need to find an expert witness, be it an engineer, an architect, an economist, etc. They have thousands of qualified experts to refer in virtually any field. Best of all the process is extremely simple. When I need an expert I simply contact TASA, whose knowledgeable representatives ask you targeted questions about your case, your legal theories, and your goals, in order to find the right expert for your case. I usually receive CVs and calls from the potential expert within hours. If you find the originally selected person is not a good fit – for whatever reason – TASA will work with you to find the right person. I would happily recommend this service to any attorney."

    Patrick K. Gibson, Gibson & Perkins PC, Media, PA

  • Ms. Darlie I. McDonald RN was awesome on the witness stand, and we prevailed in our case to the tune of  [a] (highly unusual [amount] for a medical malpractice [case] in our area).  I'd highly recommend her."

    Shane Reed, Shane A. Reed Law Office, Jacksonville, OR

  • I appreciate your inquiries and offers of assistance as well as the consistently high-quality, well-organized, and erudite TASA webinars, which invariably have excellent presenters."

    Maurice S. Kane, Cummings McClorey Davis Acho and Associates PC, Riverside, CA

  • Steven Kursh was an outstanding technical expert on our ecommerce IP lawsuit. He completed a massive amount of work on extremely complicated material, in a very short period of time. His work product was first rate and I think he would have done a terrific job if the case proceeded to trial. He is very articulate and helped us. I only wish we had gotten him involved sooner in the litigation."

    Daniel J. Brown, Reiss Sheppe LLP, New York, NY

  • I thank you all for the response to my request for an expert witness...Both Mr. Scott and Mr. Bianchi appear to be well-qualified for this case, but we have hired another expert. As always, I was impressed by TASA's ability to produce exceptionally well-qualified candidates with great speed."

    John Thomas Dzialo, The Law Offices of John Thomas Dzialo, Santa Ana, CA

  • Thank you for your quick response and the names of the two proposed experts. The situation that gave rise to our search for these experts has resolved and we will not need to retain them. However, we will continue to keep TASA in mind as these needs arise from time to time as your breadth of coverage for experts of all types is unparalleled, in my experience."

    Bart W. Brizzee, County of San Bernadino, San Bernadino, CA

  • I have used TASA for the last five years for locating an expert for many personal injury cases. On each and every occasion, TASA was able to find me more than one qualified expert. With such a variety of experts, I was able to select one who met my client's needs in prosecuting these claims. I found the experts TASA referred not only qualified, but available on a moment's notice. Your fees are reasonable and fair, and I will continue to use TASA for the remainder of my career."

    Robert Oushalem, Esq., The Law Office of Robert Oushalem, San Jose, CA

  • I recently used TASA for the first time to locate an expert to testify in a case requiring rather unusual expertise and where there were no applicable regulations or standards for guidance. TASA referred an expert in California who was everything a lawyer looks for in a forensic expert. He was promptly available for consultation, efficiently prepared for deposition and trial and very persuasive and credible with the jury. TASA's administrative services and assistance in locating this expert were excellent, and we would certainly use both the expert and TASA in the future."

    Theodore Phillips, Miller Hauser Law Group, LLP, Placerville, CA

  • TASA has always given me first-class service, but in a recent matter, TASA found the 'needle-in-the-haystack' expert witness we feared didn't exist. We needed an expert for a very narrow and limited issue in a very narrow and limited industry. Because TASA has an extensive expert witness database, it was able to give us a referral almost on the spot. It's why I always turn to TASA first."

    Kathleen A. Herdell, Law Offices of Kathleen A. Herdell, St. Helena, CA

  • There are numerous companies that provide litigation experts. However, I always choose the TASA Group because of their quick response in finding a qualified expert for my particular case. I have extreme confidence in the TASA Group and will continue to use their services in the future."

    Katie A. Killion, Esq., Chiurazzi & Mengine, LLC, Pittsburgh, PA

  • I spent hours trying to locate an expert in a very technical case involving a defect in a medical device. I could have saved a lot of time by calling TASA first. Within hours, I was supplied with the name of an engineer who had more than 30 years of job training, education and expertise in the precise area involving the device. Bravo TASA!"

    Timothy W. Peach, Partner, Peach & Weathers, San Bernardino, CA

  • We were involved in a case pending for more than five years with seven parties from three states. Three mediations failed before we looked to TASA for an expert. TASA referred an expert who clearly understood the complexity of the project and could effectively support his opinion. If it weren't for his expert advice and deposition testimony, the case would not have settled. Interestingly, the case settled within 90 days from the date this expert began."

    Renee Colbert, Esq., Corporate Counsel, W.G. Tomko, Inc., Finleyville, PA

  • Using TASA to find experts for defending our client in a negligent homicide case ended up being one of the most important decisions we made in trial preparation. The experts they suggested were exactly what we needed for the case. I truly did not expect to find experts that would be such a perfect fit for the nature of case. TASA provided us with highly qualified experts in somewhat narrow fields of expertise. A large percentage of our victory is due to the experts recommended by TASA."

    Marta Farmer, Esq., Carl S. White Law Office, Haver, MT

  • I have used TASA's services since the 1980's and have never been disappointed. TASA is indispensable for locating that hard-to-find expert. TASA representatives have always been courteous and pleasant, with the attitude that they cannot do enough to help. I expect to continue using TASA throughout my career."

    Brad W. Greenberg, Esq., Smyth Law Offices, P.C., Brockton, MA

  • I needed to retain a multitude of scientists from a variety of disciplines for a complex litigation. Initially, I went through a series of interviews with an extremely knowledgeable and professional team of TASA advisors. They were able to find highly qualified experts in the specific fields, all of whom turned out to be superior in qualification and area of expertise to my adversary’s experts. I am a TASA believer!"

    Nooshin Namazi, Partner, Nicoletti Hornig & Sweeney, New York, NY

  • TASA always comes through in the difficult IP cases. Their representatives work with you to refine the search criteria and quickly send you a list of very qualified experts."

    Timothy L. Boller, Principal, Seed Intellectual Property Law Group, PLLC, Seattle, WA

  • Special thanks to our TASA referral advisor for her quick response to our initial request—we were extremely happy with how fast TASA was able to assist us! Your group does excellent work, and it is always my first stop when looking for an expert."

    Susanne K. Sullivan, Senior Attorney, Southwest Airlines Corporation, Dallas, TX

  • When we needed an expert in a patent infringement lawsuit, we turned to TASA. We were looking for a witness qualified in two unrelated technical areas, and TASA worked with us to identify and refine our requirements. TASA performed well, promptly providing us with several excellent candidates to consider, one of whom we retained."

    Joseph T. Miotke, Partner, IP Practice Group, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Milwaukee, WI

  • Our team had a very positive experience with TASA. The Expert was professional, efficient, and certainly an expert in his field. His work and testimony contributed to a winning decision for our client! We will recommend the Expert and TASA whenever appropriate."

    Stephanie Sprague, Esq., CT

  • (The Expert) WAS A PERFECT FIT for my case: qualified, competent, easy to work with, attentive to detail, knowledgeable, smart, communicative, enthusiastic, resourceful—have I left anything out? I highly recommend TASA and would be happy to share my experience with anyone else. Thank you!"

    Michael Porrazzo, Esq., The Porrazzo Law Firm, Mission Viejo, CA

  • The expert was very thorough. TASA was quick to respond with an answer to my request. I have used TASA in the past under various other law firms and have been pleased. TASA continues to live up to expectations and then some."

    Anne Desormier-Cartwright, Esq., Jupiter, FL

  • Your organization found us an appropriate expert witness in less than one day. This was excellent service. The expert you found was excellent and a pleasure to work with."

    William A. Ehrlich, Esq., Allentown, PA

  • (The Expert)…accomplished exactly what we wanted. TASA was very prompt and efficient in locating him. All fees were reasonable."

    J. Michael Lehman, Esq., Bruce, Bruce, & Lehman, Wichita, KS

  • We needed an Internet expert right away to meet a deadline. One phone call to TASA, and in less than a day, TASA called back with a list of 8-10 experts who were exactly what I needed. The TASA expert I chose knew the business and mechanics of the Internet so well—he was a PhD and professor who had written a book on the subject—that he put the fear of truth in the defendant that caused him to settle. When I get the kind of service that I did from TASA, I stick with it and use it again and again."

    Philip Green, Attorney at Law, Green and Green, San Rafael and San Francisco, CA

  • Excellent—in a word. I just do not have the time to hunt for experts. (The Expert) was fantastic. Thank you for providing such a quality service."

    Francesca Carinci, Esq., Steubenville, OH

  • TASA stands for Tops At Serving Attorneys. It’s always rewarding working with TASA."

    Marshall A. Bernstein, Esq., Philadelphia, PA.