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Big Ideas: Big Data

Published on: 23/11/2018

What is Big Data?

Big Data is currently on the mind of entrepreneurs, CTOs, and investors in every sector.

Data is everywhere, but what is classed as ‘big data’ covers ‘the three v’s’ (as defined by industry leader Doug Laney):

The Volume of the Data:

This data is available in huge volumes from a wide range of sources. This amount of data hasn’t been available to us in the past because storage of data in large batches would have been impossible. Data, now digitised, can be stored in the cloud or using new, cheaper technologies.

For example, data from social media feeds, where millions of entries are made every minute, can run into terabytes and petabytes in a very short amount of time.  


The Velocity at Which it is Created

Big data moves quickly – velocity represents this aspect of the data. Data can be analysed real-time or near-real-time. New technologies such as smart metering and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags means high velocity data can be handled quickly.

Streaming data from IoT connected devices (link to IoT blog) and web networks is an example of high velocity data.


The Variety of Data Structures and Formats

Big data comes in a range of formats, structured and unstructured. Our traditional view of data is structured numeric data presented in a table format, but unstructured text documents can now be analysed like data.

Other unstructured data formats can include video, monetary transactions and customer service transcripts.

Big data is also available from public sources, such as the US government and the European Union Data Portal.


It used to be impossible to store, organise and process data in this volume, velocity and variety, but data storage is lowering significantly in price as new technologies, such as The Cloud, are developed and open-source data handling software, such as the Hadoop Framework and NOSQL databases, now make it easier to handle large amounts of data.


What also defines the big data revolution is not the sheer amount of data we have, but the way in which we analyse it and how we act upon the insights we get from Big Data.


How is Big Data Changing the World?

Big data is accelerating the world because of our newfound ability to make better business decisions and predict patterns through big data analysis.

Big data allows large sectors to streamline their processes and react to patterns. 81% of the retail banking sector in the UK has adopted Big Data to predict market activity and detect fraud.  

One of the biggest users of big data which changes our lives are government agencies, who handle huge amounts of data. Big data helps the government run major systems such as water, public transport and law enforcement to provide insights which help reduce wastage, traffic and crime.

Have you ever been surprised by how accurately an online service may know you? Companies like Spotify, Netflix and Amazon use big data to make intelligent predictions about your tastes and needs, improving both product and customer service through big data processing.

With adoption to big data growing rapidly from the mid-2000s, big data is now starting to reform education by changing evaluation systems and spotting pupils who need extra support.

One of the biggest changes big data analysis has given to the world is analysing healthcare data, especially electronic patient records, which has been used to control epidemic outbreaks, streamline healthcare systems and even spot life threatening diseases earlier for treatment.    

These are just examples of how big data processing is quickly changing many aspects of society.

Because of the huge positive effects of big data analysis, data has become a very valuable asset for companies and institutions.

As a hub for science and technology in Oxfordshire, Milton Park is home to many companies who break barriers and contribute to the evolution of big ideas such as big data.

Visit our news page to read about the latest developments from the park.

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