Big companies are drowning in a flood of data. Artificial intelligence could offer them a lift raft, according to Steve Stine, AT&T’schief data officer.
“Data is everywhere around us. We cannot overemphasize security, compliance, privacy, and how we handle and process data,” Stine told Barron’s in an interview. “My job is to industrialize data, to structure it.”
A.I. offers a precise navigational tool, he says, to find the right nuggets of data as more and more information pours into companies, a trend that’s expected to accelerate with the widespread adoption of blur-fast 5G networks later this year. Handling data properly is critical because misusing it, or allowing it to be compromised, can badly damage a brand, he added.
He spoke with Barron’s Wednesday before delivering a speech on “Democratization of A.I.” in San Francisco.
Stine, who has been with AT&T nearly 40 years, won the newly created title of chief data officer a year ago. He’s part of a wave of CDOs at Fortune 500 companies, where the position didn’t exist a few years ago.
Why the flood of data? Because more than 2 billion smartphone-wielding people worldwide are soaking up bandwidth with video consumption and other forms of entertainment and commerce in real time, at all hours.
Data coursing over AT&T’s network has grown 360,000% in the past decade, the company says.
To express the challenge another way, 90% of data that exists today wasn’t around two years ago, according to figures compiled by IBM(IBM). By 2020, every person will interact with more than 150 sensor-enabled devices daily, says market researcher IDC.
The “always-on connected” culture and its reliance on big data will have far-reaching effects on cable and telecommunications providers, who are well positioned to extract new revenue from a treasure trove of information about consumers, according to a March report from the Wall Street investment firm Jefferies.
“Marrying distributor’s vast data sets with the networks’ ad inventory should create more nuanced targeted advertising,” Jefferies analyst Scott Goldman said in the report. “We expect AT&T will reap similar rewards if/when the Time Warner deal closes.”
AT&T closed the $85 billion deal in June.
The report says while Verizon Communications(VZ) is the largest network operator in the U.S., AT&T has been an early player in big data, opening a Big Data Center of Excellence in 2013.
Verizon, conversely, has launched a number of data-focused division across its businesses.
Write to Jonathan Swartz at [email protected]