Computing power and access

Data growth

There has been an explosion in the volume and types of data, and computing capacity continues to grow at an exponential rate (1). 'Moore's Law', which predicts that computer processing capacity will double every 18 months, has held up since the 1970s. The original Intel microprocessor had 275,000 transistors; today it holds 2.27bn (2). In addition, there has been an even faster rate of increase in magnetic disk drive capacity, the so called 'Kryder's Law' (3).

Smart phones and tablets are predicted to carry ten times as much data in 2016 as they did in 2011, and account for nearly half of all internet traffic.

Predicted Internet traffic share in 2016


Source: Cisco VNI Mobile (2012)

Summary of per device usage growth, MB per month


Source: Cisco VNI Mobile (2012)

Connected data

At the same time our capacity to integrate data from multiple sources including location, online activity and social media is growing. Radio frequency ID (RFID), the use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data from a tag attached to an object, can supply contextual data about location, time, temperature and much more.

This opens up new opportunities to improve the quality and efficiency of services and support research and development. For example, the growth in connected data can generate new insights at a much faster rate than the linear growth in controlled clinical trials.

The tagging of objects with RFID in combination with the Internet protocol version 6 – which dramatically expands the number of potential internet addresses – will also enable the creation of the so called 'Internet of Things' (IoT).  Some have described the Internet of Things as the merger of the physical and the digital world. Information about any tagged objects will  be accessible over the internet,  allowing objects to interact with each other and people remotely. In health care, uses are likely to include prescriptions that automatically get re-ordered and delivered without any need for trips to the doctors or pharmacy, and monitoring devices feeding information to health professionals, triggering patient alerts if readings are outside normal ranges.

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  1. Brown B, Chui M, Manyika J (2011). Article. 'Are you ready for the era of "big data"?'. McKinsey Quarterly, October 2011.
  2. Boston Consulting Group (2012). Internet article. The Internet Economy in the G-20
  3. Wikipedia, 'Kryder's Law'.