Data – What Makes it Big?
Given the unprecedented news coverage of Big Data, it’s not unrealistic to think that Big Data is a relatively new concept. However, the reality is that large data sets have been around for years. Government agencies and business have been collecting information about constituents/consumers for decades to gain deeper insights or competitive advantage. So why all of the sudden all the fanfare?
In order to answer the question, you have to take a small peek at our most recent history to understand how changes in our lifestyles are driving the phenomenon of Big Data and the 3Vs that define the term – Velocity, Variety, and Volume.
Of the 7.2 Billion people on the planet, there is an estimated 51% penetration of unique mobile users, 3.65 Billion. This creates countless amounts of data generated both passively and actively by users and that information is being collected, curated, correlated, and stored.
Facebook is now over 11 years old and 47% of all Internet users are on Facebook! Sharing, posting, liking and watching content day and night has become the daily norm for most users. It is estimated that Facebook users share over 2.4M pieces of content every minute.
This is not limited to social networks – online shopping, intelligent homes/cities, and the explosion of connected devices will only contribute to the speed at which information is being generated.
Traditionally data was structured and organized in databases that could be analyzed to gain historical context and potential future insight. In today’s digital era, 1’s and 0’s means that every keystroke, download, share, and upload can be stored. Areas of our lives that could not be measured in the past can now be easily captured.
When 50 years ago someone placed pen to paper to write a letter, the only measurable data that could be collected was “how many letters were sent through the postal service in a period of time?” Now you can record length of letter, number of grammatical errors, date stamp, number of responses, when the letter was sent and received, etc – the countless scenarios are overwhelming.
The variety of data from our digital interactions is creating a digital storyboard of our daily lives. This storyboard is laying the groundwork for predictive analytics and customized solutions for those willing to participate.
However, all the velocity and variety of data would mean nothing if our ability to access and store the information was inadequate. In the past, information was not easily accessible because businesses would be limited to a snapshot of their history due to high cost of traditional data warehouses. It was not the too distant past when businesses would relieve their data warehouse by using tape backups and shipping them to a secure, remote location. In recent years, the cost of data storage has plummeted and this has afforded businesses the flexibility to collect vast amounts of information on-site, in remote data centers or with cloud-based storage providers.
The term “Big Data” will not be leaving the vernacular of our daily lives anytime soon. As our lifestyles embrace more digital interactions, data will continue to grow in terms of volume and variety. Big Data will offer Big Gains for those that are willing to embrace its use. However, as business leaders it is important to note that the value of data is not in the collecting and storing of information. The true value of Big Data comes from the interlacing of the information to gain a clear competitive advantage.