What is Big Data?

Big data. Its become the talk of the town these days. It seems that there is not a company left in the country that hasn’t delved into this field, and if there are any, it’s only a matter of time before they do. Now, there are some of you who may be thinking, “Big data? Isn’t that just a new way to say analytics?” To be honest, you’re not completely wrong; The big data movement, like analytics before it, seeks to glean intelligence from data and translate that into a business advantage. However, there are some major differences which Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson from Harvard Business review explain perfectly:

Volume.

“As of 2012, about 2.5 exabytes of data are created each day, and that number is doubling every 40 months or so. More data cross the internet every second than were stored in the entire internet just 20 years ago. This gives companies an opportunity to work with many petabyes of data in a single data set—and not just from the internet. For instance, it is estimated that Walmart collects more than 2.5 petabytes of data every hour from its customer transactions. A petabyte is one quadrillion bytes, or the equivalent of about 20 million filing cabinets’ worth of text. An exabyte is 1,000 times that amount, or one billion gigabytes.”

Velocity.

“For many applications, the speed of data creation is even more important than the volume. Real-time or nearly real-time information makes it possible for a company to be much more agile than its competitors. For instance, our colleague Alex “Sandy” Pentland and his group at the MIT Media Lab used location data from mobile phones to infer how many people were in Macy’s parking lots on Black Friday—the start of the Christmas shopping season in the United States. This made it possible to estimate the retailer’s sales on that critical day even before Macy’s itself had recorded those sales. Rapid insights like that can provide an obvious competitive advantage to Wall Street analysts and Main Street managers.”

Variety.

“Big data takes the form of messages, updates, and images posted to social networks; readings from sensors; GPS signals from cell phones, and more. Many of the most important sources of big data are relatively new. The huge amounts of information from social networks, for example, are only as old as the networks themselves; Facebook was launched in 2004, Twitter in 2006. The same holds for smartphones and the other mobile devices that now provide enormous streams of data tied to people, activities, and locations. Because these devices are ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that the iPhone was unveiled only five years ago, and the iPad in 2010. Thus the structured databases that stored most corporate information until recently are ill suited to storing and processing big data. At the same time, the steadily declining costs of all the elements of computing—storage, memory, processing, bandwidth, and so on—mean that previously expensive data-intensive approaches are quickly becoming economical.”

This article does an excellent job of describing what exactly big data is, as well as how it can impact the economy. Continue reading the full article here: https://hbr.org/2012/10/big-data-the-management-revolution

About Pradheeth R

"Data is the new oil? No, data is the new soil." - David McCandless, TEDGlobal 2010 Tableau Data Scientist/Analyst at Novedea Systems. Southern Methodist University graduate with a double major in Economics and Psychology.

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