Big data - the next big thing in technology
THE TECH industry is full of buzz words. While companies may have struggled to get to grips with the cloud in recent years, the latest to hit the market is “big data”.
But what exactly does it mean? According to IBM, 90 per cent of the data in the world today has been created in the past two years.
The explosion in popularity of smartphones has helped fuel this growth, with sites and services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter helping to create more and more online data.
At the end of June, Facebook’s user base stood at 955 million active monthly users, with 552 million active daily users. Twitter, meanwhile, is generating about 400 million updates every day.
Companies gather data about their customers. Millions of sensors compile information every day. Add into all that the growth in ecommerce, which generates purchase records, digital images, IT logs, GPS signal data and videos, and you aren’t even coming close to the concept that is big data. It’s a massive, multistructured pool of information that could be invaluable, if you know what to do with it.
Ultimately, it differs from the traditional type of “structured” data that we have become used to in the past, which includes everything from bank customer records and financial information to invoices and billing data.
“The world of the iPhone, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, has created a new data type, a lot of unstructured data,” says EMC’s Jason Ward.
“A lot of these data types are difficult to manage, monitor, model and analyse in the way we used to analyse data.
“When you marry unstructured data and data of old, you get the concept of big data.”
IBM has previously expressed the belief that the “winners” of the big data era will be those who drive innovation and become more competitive by using their “information assets”. In other words, making sense of big data is key for companies.
Quite simply, big data can be used to grow your business, extracting insights into your customers and their behaviour, predicting trends in the market that you can take advantage of, and using real time information from sources such as Twitter to reach out to customers and ensure that they are satisfied by the products and services produced by companies.
It can be used across a range of sectors – from healthcare and telecoms to energy firms and law enforcement. The information gathered through big data can be used to cut down on fraud, enable the introduction of smart metering to help control energy bills and foster better customer relationships.