Picture A World Where… Big Data Works

sam-reeve-resource-futuresResource Futures’ CEO, Sam Reeve, says much has changed in the last decade, while much has also stayed the same! Here he pictures a world in which things are a little different, there is more knowledge on waste and resources and “big data” make a difference…

data-conceptWe recently celebrated our tenth anniversary as Resource Futures, although most of you know that our history stems from before then. During those 10 years, much has changed in the world of resource management and much has stayed the same.

The challenge of rising waste levels, alongside global temperatures, continues as does the need to decrease our dependency on raw materials. Arguably, this issue has become more acute in the past decade. And yet, with advent of the internet, online platforms and software manipulation, we are in a better position than before to analyse problems and deliver solutions. In short, data and the Internet of Things are pivotal in driving resource efficiency.

“The world is one big data problem”

These are the words of Andrew McAfee, an IT Professor from the MIT business school. But for our industry, the challenge is how data is collected.

Picture a world where:

  • we know how much waste resource each household or business is producing
  • we know what materials and items are in the waste resource stream
  • we know when and where a resource is going to become a waste resource
  • we know where and how waste resources are managed, and put back into productive use
  • we know what parts of items need replacing and when?
  • we know how items are being used and the implications this will have for their management

Digital data collection is changing our world. It brings together the schools of thought around the Internet of Things and ‘Big Data’. The pace of innovation and change is impressive and at the same time frightening to witness. And yet across the sector we seem to be in parallel universes when it comes to the different approaches to data. Some organisations are light years ahead when it comes to knowing what is happening with the resources they manage, use and dispose.

The status quo seems to be a general acceptance that waste is a problem too big to solve without the intervention of Government.  We want to disrupt that status quo. Together we could build a material flow map of the UK – there is a lot of data out there that we can use, but there are also black holes that we need to fill and we need to get the right people around the table to make that happen.

There are huge opportunities for the waste resource management sector, manufacturers, retail outlets and more. If we know what things people are buying, when they are using them and discarding them, just think about the disruptive business models that could use that information to reduce the length of, or speed up, supply chains. We can support a more resource efficient commercial and industrial sector through better data collection.

Without data, how can we be expected to do anything other than make a stab in the dark?



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