In the commercial real estate Industry, the growth of Big-Data and technology investment firms has sent ripples through the nation. Many of these ripples are felt as shockwaves in the places they affect, and not in a positive way. These ripples have built cities where neighborhoods once stood and have left the countryside dotted with vast warehouses of whirring machinery.
These centers are referred to as data farms. They provide services integral to the functioning of everything from the timeclock at your work, to the live updates of a Facebook feed. Their services permeate every corner of nearly every infrastructure and information system in existence. The trading of data is being conducted on such a large scale there are indicators entire unregulated and black markets are being formed around the brokering storage space, processing power or a promissory note to it.
In every aspect, Big-Data operates in a manner parallel agriculture markets; here is the case: its operations take up large tracts of rural and/or undeveloped land. The value of data is based on maximizing available yield. There is a literal physical and digital security market based around protecting the value of data, and maintaining safe, secure facilities, and insurance. Then there is a figurative security market in the form of cryptographic currencies and the futures trading that come with them.
The health of Big-Data is contingent on the production of new data storage and processing facilities. Again, the commercial agricultural and large parcel real estate market finds itself entwined with the data market’s need to expand its holdings in real estate, construction, and mechanical engineering; all which feed into each other.
Because Big-Data consumes large quantities of electricity, data warehouse developers are highly incentivized to produce their data services in areas providing inexpensive electricity. With the increase of demand, suppliers have become cavalier with the means by which they make their product available. Unfortunately, this has left sour experiences and memories for communities in which some of these operations have taken place.
What’s worth noting is that as with any new mass-market industry, like Big-Agriculture, there are going to be mistakes and corrections. There will be experiments, and there will be failures before there is innovation. Every major industry has its negative consequences from wheat field runoff, to bacteria in fish-farm pens; even hydroelectric dams have environmental impacts. But the value is in the knowledge of these mistakes, and what the individuals within that industry do with that knowledge in order to adapt.
The sheer volume and inundation of the market — and our minds — with data has increased at an unprecedented rate over the past decade, if not longer. Big-Data is a big part of our present and will continue to be quite active through the future. In this process it will be important to work together on creating sustainable plans for industry growth. If communities and large network technology producers work together on managing resources and impact, Big-Data services could bring high quality employment and economic development opportunities. This would range from real estate, mechanical engineering, development, and architecture to security, logistics, insurance, and financial sectors. It’s also worth noting, none of the listed industries can function without paying local taxes, utilities, and more.
The door shouldn’t be closed to Big-Data, but the elephant in the room remains: memories of failure, retribution, and general drama are fresh with local Big-Data club-members, local governments, residents, existing businesses, and overeager start-ups. It may be too soon to extend an open hand, but both sides might benefit if they unclench their fists.
Tavis Hamilton is the Director of Marketing for Equilus Capital Partners and has worked in development and construction.