How big data could revolutionise the healthcare industry
We generate data about ourselves all the time, the acquisition and interpretation of which is big business. In many cases, this data may be fairly trivial or inconsequential. In others, this may be the most private and confidential data of all - about our health, for example.
Regardless of what type it falls under, there are businesses out there that will want it.
The question of data in healthcare is timely considering the UK’s exit from the European Union, and the potential for healthcare data to be used as a bargaining chip in future trade deals with the United States and others.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is one of the oldest and most established public healthcare systems in the world. Its practice of tying data to an individual NHS number means its data provides a broader account of patients’ health, and with the NHS increasingly digitising old records, a chronologically longer one too. EY has estimated the data to be worth almost £10bn.
The potential value of that data led to raised eyebrows when, in December, the UK government gave Amazon unfettered access to non-patient data for free, with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in turn providing health information via voice search.
Elsewhere, other big tech firms are interested in acquiring medical data, with Google doing a deal with Ascension, a company that runs 2,600 hospitals in the US.
Of course, such data is not purely useful to American tech giants, with the NHS and other health bodies themselves able to capitalise upon it.
One possible avenue of exploration lies in opening up such data sets to AI. The CEO of NHSX, the NHS’s digital transformation arm, Matthew Gould wrote in a recent blog post: “Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds enormous potential for the NHS, if we can use it right. It can reduce the burden on the system by taking on the tasks that can be converted into an algorithm. Many of these are in areas of greatest pressure, like radiography and pathology. It could improve patient outcomes, and increase productivity across the system, freeing up clinicians’ time so they can focus on the parts of the job where they add the most value”
Future-tech and IXAfrica: Full Life Cycle Expertise
Future-tech is unique among data centre consultancies for a number of reasons. Not only does the Reading-based firm have high levels of expertise in markets ranging from Helsinki to Johannesburg, but Future-tech offers services across the complete life cycle of a facility.
“We are involved with projects from the initiation to completion,” explains James Wilman, Future-tech’s CEO. “We go from initiation phase - which could mean the site selection process or technical due diligence for a merger or acquisition - all the way through establishing the brief, the various design stages, construction oversight, commissioning, operation, end of life cycle replenishment, and can start right back at the beginning with refurbishment.”
While some factors, like the facility requirements for major tenants, remain the same no matter where you are, Wilman explains that “it's the environmental conditions, construction methodologies, supply chain, and skill sets available in different locations that vary, and that makes this a very interesting job.”
Future-tech was selected by IXAfrica as the life cycle design strategic partner for its hyperscale campus project in Nairobi, Kenya. Wilman explains that, over the past year, Future-tech has been leveraging its strong local knowledge, working closely with Kenyan architects and engineers, and collaborating with both Guy Wilner and Clement Martineau, to help IXAfrica successfully deliver Kenya’s largest hyperscale data centre.
“Future-tech did its first project on the African continent in 2012 in Kenya. I've been involved in the data centre space there for a long time, and have known Guy for a number of years through projects and interaction in Europe,” says Wilman. “As the IXAfrica project came into being, Guy and I spoke about it as he knew that we were already quite familiar with the area. We assisted out with the initial planning and project design, and the relationship really grew from there.”
Wilman adds that the experience helping Future-tech support the IXAfrica project has been hard-won. “It's been a steep learning curve, figuring out how to work in Africa. Some of our earlier projects were quite challenging, but we're fortunate to be at a point now where working throughout the region feels really comfortable,” he explains. “One of the things about Nairobi - which we found out when we were working on our first project in the city back in 2012 - is that, because it's about 1,200 metres above sea level, the altitude actually de-rates the onsite equipment. Having your equipment perform less well because of the altitude can massively impact the whole facility.” Understanding the factors that define a local environment can be the difference between success and disaster for a data centre, and Future-tech’s extensive experience in Kenya is a key supporting factor for IXAfrica’s success in Nairobi.
Wilman has also developed a strong collaborative relationship with Guy and Clement. “We've got over a gigawatt of design projects going through our office at the moment with different clients, which means that we're always learning new things. What is refreshing about working with Guy and Clement is that when we bring them a new idea, they listen to us,” says Wilman. “We've had a good run in Nairobi with IXAfrica built off of a long relationship, and I hope we get to continue working with them on their future projects.”