What is Big Data and how can it help?

Posted by Karen on Jun 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM
Big Data is the latest tech industry buzzword, but what is it and how does it affect us? Well in the simplest terms it denotes a large (very large in fact) amount of data. We’re talking about a classification which deems 30-50 terabytes a “minimum”. To place that into perspective, one terabyte of audio recorded at CD quality will contain around 2,000 hours of audio, while the first 20 years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope has equated to more than 45 terabytes of data! This collection of information, which can take a multitude of forms; text, imagery, audio, or even statistics brought about by the number of clicks on one website page, can then be used by organisations to make informed decisions.

However, when first collected, this data is vast and unruly; it must be converted into something coherent so that it can be applied to a purpose. Software is required for the translation of this data into what we might call business intelligence. Historically though, this software, as well as  the storage and server requirements that go with it, have made Big Data cost prohibitive for SME’s, giving big players the advantage.

Take Facebook and Google. Both organisations have been able to access the data collected on their pages and use it to their advantage – think Google Analytics. Ever noticed when you’ve been searching for that special gift that there’s an increase in adverts showcasing pages linked to similar products? Or has Facebook been providing Group and Page suggestions based on what you already like or have commented on within a status? These are prime examples where Big Data is being utilised by to organise copious amounts of patterns formed within an individuals’ or a group activities.

What we see from the above is that Big Data can create targeted advertising. It can lead to the development and formation of new ideas and new products, with trends appearing clearer once the data is organised. Big Data, large as it is, is really here to solve.

Data transfer is increasing the time, and at rates which are which are almost difficult to comprehend. The fact that 90% of data out there currently was created in the last two years (owing much to tablet usage and mobile data). Gives you some perspective of the data explosion we are currently witnessing. As data grows, both the collection of data and the processes to sift and organise it are also getting quicker. These developments are (through increasing expertise, economies of scale and market competition) making the use of Big Data more accessible to small and medium sized businesses.

I recently watched a piece on BBC’s Click which focused on the growth of dynamic, interactive cities. Data can be collected across numerous aspects of the running of a town or city and in turn can create cost savings for that location. Big Data married with new machine to machine communications and smart devices could help a city determine where power is being used from the grid where it needn’t be, or prevent overcrowding in particular areas through predictive analysis. It’s all pretty cool stuff and will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the ways in which we live our lives.

The fact that Big Data is now more accessible than ever means we are likely to see increasing development of its uses and applications. We will see a lot of instances in which one individual, or firm, finds a slight anomaly or pattern that proves transformative to their business. Big Data has the potential to be ‘game-changing’ to a whole host of organisations. If it’s something that you were unaware of, or though previously was inaccessible, it might be time to start exploring.
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