Aiimi’s Data Science Principal Jack Lawton shares his prediction for 2021's top trend in data and AI. Open Data has been on our radars for quite some time, but the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the benefits of data sharing for businesses now more than ever.

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What do you think will be the top trend in Data and AI for 2021?

I think probably one of the top trends for 2021 is going to be an increased use of Open Data and data sharing for all companies.

What’s so great about it?

What’s so great about data sharing? Well, really when data is shared. For example, during the pandemic when all the supermarkets and the governments collaborated, obviously with the government, but also with their competitors. Traditionally, that’s something you would never think of doing, but it was all with the mindset of keeping their supply chain moving. Through collaboration with their competitors, supermarkets were able to cope with unprecedented levels of demand. I believe the figure was something equivalent to Christmas demand, but it happened basically overnight and in the middle of March. There was huge demand and they were able to deal with that unprecedented event by quite literally sharing data and collaborating with people who they might not have previously thought to collaborate with. I think the value of that is only really being appreciated more and more.

One area where I personally have seen a lot of data sharing and an increased openness towards this is within the water sector. Again, it’s very similar in that there's competition between different water companies, and they are ranked against each other very actively by OFWAT. But as they are set increasingly stringent targets to meet (things like water consumption per capita), the water companies I see are increasingly waking up to the need to collaborate with their competitors (traditionally), to actually achieve a better service for customers.

I was lucky enough last year to take part in the Water Consumption Data Hack, where three water companies – SES Water, Anglian Water, and Welsh Water – came together to share their data in a way that was really quite bold, to achieve shared goals.

Forgetting about data and AI, what’s the one thing you’re hoping for in 2021?

Oh, bloody hell. Not a repeat of the previous year. Though work-wise it was a really good year. Definitely sport, travelling. I quite like skiing, but I obviously didn't get to go skiing last year. And I don’t know if I will get to go skiing this year, maybe there is a December ski trip that we can hope for.