What is Big Data?

Today, almost everything we do leaves a digital trail. Every time we visit a website, shop online or carry our GPS-equipped smartphones, and even when we communicate with our friends through social media or chat applications, we generate data. On top of this, the amount of machine-generated data is rapidly growing too. Data is generated and shared when our “smart” home devices communicate with each other or with their home servers. Industrial machinery in plants and factories around the world are increasingly equipped with sensors that gather and transmit data.

This is where the term Big Data comes from. It refers to the collection of all this data and our ability to use it to our advantage across a wide range of areas, including business.

But how does it work?

Fundamentally, Big Data works on the principle that the more you know about something, the more reliably you can gain new insights and make predictions about what will happen in the future. By drawing comparisons in large amounts of data, you can begin to find patterns that were previously hidden. In turn, these patterns enable people to learn and make better decisions.

This data scanning is largely automated, using advanced technology such as AI and Machine Learning to run millions of simulations, looking for matches. But do not make the mistake of thinking that this data is all in spreadsheets.That’s now a thing of the past. This data now consists of everything from photos, videos and sound recordings, to written text and sensor data. This means we can now get predictions, analysis and insights from far larger amounts of data.

How is it being used?

The ever-growing collections of data means that we can now use data in ways that were not possible only a few years ago. Businesses are now able to predict which items customers are likely to buy, when and how. In healthcare, Big Data is helping hospitals to spot disease early and develop new medicines. While in the police, the service is utilizing data to deploy resources more efficiently and act as a deterrent where one is needed.

What about my privacy?

Naturally, such unprecedented collection and analysis of data will bring up privacy concerns. This is why it’s always important to limit the amount of information you are publicly sharing and posting online. However, new regulations such as GDPR provide a strict framework for data handling which organisations much adhere to. This gives you more rights than you had before. But if you’re concerned about the data an organisation holds on you, you should contact them and get it erased. For more information, check out our post on your data rights.

Data is changing our world and how we live. Big Data as both a concept and process is only going to evolve over time as new technologies come into play and we divulge more information online. This means that while we might have more data to handle in the years to come, businesses will be able to take greater advantage of it thanks to improved analytics.