Data is the New Oil in Both Fortune and Spills

We have seen Intel® transform from a PC-centric company into a data-centric company, with quotes like “Data is the new oil” coming from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. The statement has been widely quoted by CEOs and major business magazines, but one of the earliest citations of the saying is from Clive Humby, in his address at the 2006 ANA Senior Marketer’s Summit, Kellogg School. Shortly after that, Michael Palmer, Executive Vice President at the Association of National Advertisers wrote, “Data is just like crude. It’s valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc. to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down, analyzed for it to have value.”[i] In turn, companies like Intel are serving the data industry with the physical technology needed to drive the massive data explosion.


Figure 1: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will both train with and parse data.

Large corporations like Google and Amazon have grown in the cloud storage business and also make money gathering, storing, and processing data on a large scale. Data spills, like an oil spill, can also wreak havoc in the data ecosystem, hurting innocent contributors to the ecosystem like wildlife caught in an oil slick that’s beyond their comprehension. As such, all participants in the data ecosystem own a responsibility to preserving the environment. Intel’s commitment to security is visible with programs like Intel Enhanced Privacy ID (EPID) Security Technology, hardware-assisted data center security, and even an Intel bug-bounty program.

The Economist, in a May 2017 article, states that the titans of data known as Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft “look unstoppable” as the top five most valuable (listed) firms in the world. The Economist goes on to offer a convincing argument on how the data economy is a new paradigm where oil-related thinking on competitive regulations and practices no longer applies. This is where the oil analogy to data ends. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will increasingly both train with and parse data at lightning speeds as tasks like computer-driven image recognition and speech transcription out-perform humans today.

In an October 2017 press release, Intel Corporation revealed it had invested over half a billion dollars in new areas that reflect high levels of data use. According to the press release, “The companies joining Intel Capital’s portfolio are trailblazing technologies that leverage multiple facets of the data life cycle—including analyzing, capturing, managing and securing data. These newly funded companies focus on artificial intelligence, 3D medical visualization, robots for retail, and cybersecurity inspired by the human immune system, among other technologies.” All pose excellent opportunities for growth and innovation and are driven by massive quantities of data. Data appears to be in the future of humanity. Is the Data Revolution next?

Humanity got a huge boost in the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. The Digital Revolution began with the advent of computers from use in the 1950s in business, to personal home computing in the 1990s. The Internet is a key medium in the Information Revolution. Successive economic revolutions have led to an increase in customer empowerment (e.g., pull, rather than push), which has led to “mass customization” followed by deeper penetration by technology. Endless cycles of fragmentation and consolidation of businesses occur, akin to the constant erosion of the earth’s crust which also provides material for new rock units such as sandstone and shale (albeit on a drastically different time scale).

We are in the Data Revolution.

Lynnette Reese is Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Intel Solutions and Embedded Systems Engineering, and has been working in various roles as an electrical engineer for over two decades. She is interested in open source software and hardware, the maker movement, and in increasing the number of women working in STEM so she has a greater chance of talking about something other than football at the water cooler.



[i]Palmer, Michael. “Data Is the New Oil.” ANA Marketing Maestros, Association of National Advertisers, 6 Nov. 2006,

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