If you’re tired of fiddling with your new smartphone and are looking for the next big thing to tinker with, then you need look no further than Big Data. Wonkie’s think tank predicts that Big Data will revolutionise both industries and individual lives, in the space of a few years if used smartly.
What is Big Data?
Jargon aside, one can think of Big Data as essentially an enormous amount of information about something specific. It could be anything from social media data like billions of Facebook updates, to detailed sensor information about how particles behave in the Large Hadron Collider.
Unless of course you’re some big tech company that needs to boast that your centres can store x exabytes of data, the raw data itself is not all that interesting. In fact, data warehousing is a buzzword that’s over a decade old now. What is interesting is what secrets and patterns the data can reveal.
With the exception of a few companies, like Amazon, who have proven themselves as being quite effective in terms of using customer data to increase sales, most corporates are still relatively useless at it. This is despite spending a considerable sum on data warehousing infrastructure, software, and business intelligence consultants.
The challenge is that with so much information, it is difficult to know where to start. Unfortunately, few companies have Chief Information Officers with strong Operational Research and Statistics backgrounds yet. Instead, they have shoveled off the analytics to some technology-related department, which typically still lacks the business acumen to figure out how best the data can be used to generate value.
To make good use of data, one needs solid research skills. One needs to understand how to formulate hypotheses, and how to properly use statistics to either validate or refute those hypotheses.
How useful is Big Data?
In the right hands, Big Data can change the world. Imagine for a moment, having the ability to validate some of the following hypotheses:
1. Is Friday the 13th really unlucky for most people?
2. Are all Capricorns stubborn, or is just my wife?
3. Do people generally get crankier on a full moon?
4. Are people happier if they have more Twitter followers?
5. Do most people hate their jobs?
In all seriousness, and forgetting about privacy issues for a moment, analysing a huge volume of information about moods, behaviour, physical well-being, and the like on specific demographic segments can yield very interesting insights. Wonkie does not care much about it from the commercial perspective – the real potential of Big Data is to help people better understand the mechanics of how people work.
The visionaries that know what hypotheses will yield the most valuable insights, will be the winners in the Big Data world.
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