Sat. Jan 21st, 2023

Changing markets and new opportunities

Computers have had a huge impact on existing markets, and led to the creation of many new ones. Some examples are:

  • Shopping – “bricks and mortar” stores are being pushed aside in favour of online shopping. Online retail can take advantage of lower costs (no need to have multiple physical shops), increased efficiency (store stock in one location and deliver from there), react quicker to competition (update a website rather than produce advertising media and distribute it)
  • Navigation – the combination of GPS hardware with software that overlays your location on a map, and can plan routes has led to a drop in the number of maps sold (it used to be common to buy a new map every year or two)
  • There used to be a market for compact digital cameras. As the computing power available in a mobile phone increased, this market ceased to exist – nearly all portable cameras are now phone cameras.

How computers changed business

The need for change and adaptation

The advance of computing has massive implications for other businesses. As an example, until recently, it was normal to purchase films on DVD or Bluray, or to be able to rent the discs. One such company was Love Film – this company allowed you to borrow films on disc, which were delivered via the post. As computer systems became more powerful and communication infrastructure improved, this business model was no longer competitive – as such, Love Film ceased to exist. It was rebranded and adapted to allow movie rentals digitally – it became part of Amazon Prime. (Prime Video). Had the company not adapted, it would have ceased trading.

How developments in IT can assist

Consider a store loyalty card. In past years, loyalty rewards were limited to supplying stickers with purchases, that a consumer could store up and redeem. There was no benefit to the business asides from possible repeat business if consumers wanted to collect the rewards.

With the advances in technology, it is now normal to offer loyalty cards or even virtual loyalty cards – these are far more flexible, as businesses can start to build up a database of purchases by consumers, and offer targeted promotions and advertisements to individual customers.

IT advances have also made it far easier to share information – movies, music, news, print media and more can be (almost) freely distributed – in the sense of how far reaching the distribution is, and the low cost of entry, compared to older and less efficient methods of communication.

Big data

Big data is a term used to describe systems which generate…. huge volumes of data, at rapid pace. This causes many challenges, not least because traditional database systems do not scale horizontally: that is, they only scale vertically – meaning that to increase power and performance, a more powerful machine is required. There are limits to how powerful individual machines can be. Horizontal scaling allows more machines to be added to perform the data processing, but this comes with the catch that having multiple machines processing data could mean that copies of data that have been replicated across multiple machines become out of sync – something that should not be able to happen.

Examples of big data applications include social media, medical research, climate modelling and many others.

Various technologies have been developed in order to address the issues presented by big data – for example, new forms of database engine (often referred to as NoSQL systems: MongoDB is one popular example).

What is big data?