Basically everything we do nowadays generates data. Every time we tweet, update our Facebook status, post a photo on Instagram, Google something, use our credit card, cellphone, GPS or smartwatch we create data that is being analyzing by several companies. Which is why Big Data is a really complex concept, because there is too much information to simply create a compact definition.
An accurate description for big data is the one given in the book Big Data for dummies, where it is defined as “the capability to manage a huge volume of disparate data, at the right speed, and within the right time frame to allow real-time analysis and reaction”.
According to the book The Human Face of Big Data, nowadays the average person generates more data in a single day than a person in the 15th century did in an entire lifetime. That data is really big, moves very fast and comes in so many different formats that it exceeds the capacity of conventional database systems and doesn’t fit into the traditional structures.
The three V’s
Big data has three main characteristics:
Volume: Referring to the variety of sources where data comes from, such as social media, business transactions, sensors or machine-to-machine information. It is estimated that 2.3 trillion GB of data are created every day.
Velocity: The speed in which data is being created forces organizations to analyze it in almost real time.
Variety: It refers to the different types of formats in which data is created. That data can be structured or unstructured, including sensor data, texts, audio, video, click streams.
Who’s collecting it and why?
Everything we do leaves a footprint that has a value for data analyzers, because it helps them making a profile of us, so retailers can get closer to possible clients or industries can develop products according to the customer’s need, perform risk studies by analyzing the potential changes their industry might take or reducing maintenance costs.
Many enterprises and industries collect and use big data for the main purpose of improving their business operations and analyzing customer behavior, says the report Big Data: What is it, how is it collected and how might life insurers use it? Facebook, Google and Amazon are some of the companies looking for new ways to understand our lives through data.
Governments are also anxious for collecting data about anything and anyone. The revelations that Edward Snowden did on 2013 about the scale of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance along with the complicity of internet companies exemplify the way that Big Data has a supportive relationship with citizen surveillance.
Benefits of Big Data
So, with all that read you may think of big data is just the way government and sellers collect our information for national security or marketing reasons. But the truth is that it is used in many other fields such as research, medicine, science and humanitarian aid.
The ability to capture and analyze data is giving healthcare institutions the opportunity of keeping people healthy and anticipating health issues before they become a problem. Big Data is also supporting disease research to attack circumstances such as cancer or diabetes.
Companies collect their client’s feedback through brand mentions on internet, which gives them the ability of improving customer service, learning how we are using their products and re-develop them if necessary.
Approximately 75% of government IT professionals attribute crime preventing to Big Data, says Customer Zone. Many police departments are using predictive models to help them know when, where and how crimes will happen.
According to vouchercloud, by installing magnetic sensors in the road, using GPS systems to track public transport and capturing data in real time, transport agencies can manage potential traffic by changing routes, modifying traffic light sequences, delivering information to drivers via mobile apps and offering alternatives routes.
Big data and optical fiber
Optical fiber has become the data transportation way of choice because it is the most efficient, scalable and secure way to move data from local resources to hosted resources around the world and replicate it across global networks of numerous data centers.
The big amounts of data that are transported across data centers need to be analyzed in real time, therefore it requires high-performance networks and those networks can only be deployed with optical fiber.
As an overused, marketing buzzword, the term “big data” might disappear over time, but efforts for collecting and analyzing vast amounts of data for business, health or safety purposes will continue because data is the oil of the future.
In this infographic you can check how much data is generated in a minute around the world.
TL;DR: For those who rather a video about this subjects, the PBS has a fantastic one for this subject