The 21st century is the century of data” – A strong belief of mine, and one that with each passing day seems to confirm my conviction. Start-ups valued at more than a billion dollars, also known as unicorns – such as Netflix, Airbnb, Tesla, Uber or French company Blablacar, have made no giant technological leaps forward, instead they have succeeded in marketing their services, and above all in generating and utilising their customers’ data. The same goes for social networks, like LinkedIn, with all the data from its hundreds of millions of users… and now with billions of Microsoft dollars too.

Cooperation and open innovation will become the norm

In future, all companies, regardless of size, will have to learn to identify, generate and make use of their own data and their customers’ data, creating a new knowledge market where cooperation and open innovation will be the norm.

This focus on data will be  at the very heart of future customer relationships. For a digital services company like Atos, a historical player in the “business to business” sector, this can be seen particularly in the optimisation of its clients’ production tools, using methods such as predictive maintenance, a symbol of Industry 4.0. Through the billions of data items that we collect and process on behalf of Siemens in their factories, we help our partner to understand the status of its machine operations in real time, as well as anticipating repairs and the replacement of parts. Parts that could also be manufactured in real time with 3D printers…

Then, taking a “business to consumer” approach, we support our clients to understand their end users. And these customers, who are becoming increasingly demanding, require ever more detailed analysis (consumer habits, customer journey and ultra-precise targeting) that can only be guaranteed by Big Data. In exchange for this information, companies can offer products that are more and more innovative and connected, that will themselves generate an incredibly massive and permanent flow of data.

A technical challenge but also a social and even philosophical one

This leaves us with two major challenges. The first, technical challenge consists of controlling the data deluge in the coming years, when we will soon have to process more data items in real time than there are grains of sand on earth. By 2020, we expect to have reached the threshold of 40 zettabytes, or 40 thousand billion billions, of exploitable data in the world. The second, more social and perhaps even more philosophical challenge, will be to reassure consumers about how their personal data is being used. The right to be digitally forgotten, the flagship issue recently discussed by students around the world as part of the Atos IT Challenge, is one significant aspect of this. The draft European data protection agreement, setting out sanctions of up to 4% of a company’s global turnover, shows that a legal framework is gradually being established.

The 21st century will be the century of digital trust

Faced with this double challenge, we offer one single response: trust. Trust, first of all in our technological capacity to process and exploit millions and then billions of billions of data per second, just like the Bull sequana supercomputer which we have just released, the most efficient in the world. Then the trust that our clients – and by extension their customers – can place in the management of personal data including data generated by Internet of Things, with cybersecurity at the heart of our commitments and our operational excellence.

More broadly, we have placed trust in the new era that is approaching: that of the quantum computer, which our teams are already working on. By 2030 this new development will pave the way for a raft of new inventions across all sectors of human activity, creating jobs and value, a far cry from the  stagnation that others have predicted. The 21st century will continue to truly be the century of data. It is also the century for building digital trust.