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Data centres like this one in Tokyo will effectively run our world

Data centres like this one in Tokyo will effectively run our world

A Helpful Update on Big Data and Its Uses

The Technology of Business on the BBC is running March as a Big Data featured month with interviews, questions/answers and some interesting facts.

If you want to follow the growing debate about Big Data, this is a good one as it’s not overly technological and allows you mind-room to think, which everyone needs when thinking about data nowadays.

Data Has Always Been With Us

In his opener article, Matthew Wall says that we have had data from ‘loyalty card schemes, till receipts, medical records and tax returns….’ and it has been analysed. It’s just that now it’s bigger.

He says the ‘velocity, variety and volume’ of Big Data is what makes it so significant. The advent of the internet and the digital dawn meant that unstructured data could be translated into ‘strings of ones and noughts capable of being recorded, stored, searched and analysed.’

Along with this the number of gadgets recording and transmitting data has proliferated leading to ‘an explosion of data.’ Wall quotes IBM’s claim that ‘2.5 billion gigabytes of data were generated per day through 2012.’ The gadgets are increasingly able to store huge quantities of data in their own rights.

He points out that it’s not only data quantities that matter, it’s the intelligence ‘gleaned’ from it, particularly real-time data. Companies ahead with data analytics are ahead in the commercial world with cost-efficient targeted marketing.

There are also benefits to the fields of ‘healthcare, scientific research, agriculture, logistics, urban design, energy, retailing, crime reduction and business operations.’

Handling Such Volumes

By way of information, the article summarises the new measurements that have been dreamed up to account for the data volumes. Figures are decimal, not binary:

1,000 bytes = one kilobyte (kB)
1,000 kB = one megabyte (MB)
1,000 MB = one gigabyte (GB)
1,000 GB = one terabyte (TB)
1,000 TB = one petabyte (PB)
1,000 PB = one exabyte (EB)
1,000 EB = one zettabyte (ZB)
1,000 ZB = one yottabyte (YB)

Wall says that business and academic worlds are waking up to the new skills needed to handle so much data that is both valuable and worth protecting and exploiting.

The general view in the data world, especially those doing jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago, is that some organisations such as big banks only use a fraction of their stored data because it is not easily accessible.

The big related issues are how to keep what is often sensitive data safe from ‘hackers, spies and natural disasters.’ Wall says in our mobile, networked world, that is ‘an increasingly tall order.’

But we have to try.


Wall then asks who owns all the data? It is one we have posed before on MBF Blogs: Who Actually Owns Your Social Media?  (19 June 2012).

The answer is perhaps whoever has it stored and is using it. Social media like Twitter and Facebook takes what is given freely by users for its own ends, as do Google and Amazon and everybody else. Even your local store that sells you something utilises your contact details and whatever it has found out about you to try to sell you something else.

That may be a small data illustration, but it is indisputably part of the Big Data bigger picture.

Other related blogs in our databank:

Making Money from Social Media Not As Easy As It Sounds, 3 March 2014

New NHS Master-Database: Time for a Second Opinion, 24 February 2014

Open Data Is Bigger Than Big Data Once It’s Released, 4 February 2014

Your Face When Shopping Is the Retailers’ Biggest Asset, 16 December 2013

Some Big ‘What Ifs …?’ for the Digital Future, 10 December 2013

Some People Have Seen the Future: It’s a Legal Minefield, 26 November 2013

Catch It Here and Hold It Down: Stuff in the Air About Data, 18 November 2013

Dry Stats Open Up Fascinating View of How We Live Now, 4 November 2013

Data-Mining Is Still the Hottest Controversial Around With Far-Reaching Ramifications, 20 September 2013

Big Data Is Worth More Than Gold and Oil Put Together, 3 September 2013

If More Data Sharing Is the Answer, What is the Question? 29 April 2013

Big Data Is Big News, Big Opportunities and a Big Problem, 30 January 2013

Image: MylanV