technology research

Big Data: What’s all the fuss about?

Big Data: What’s all the fuss about? 150 150 Simon Randall

If you read the
technology news, or even just put searches into Google, you surely
can’t have failed to notice the term big data being bandied
around very frequently. Whilst it’s easy to dismiss it out of hand as
the latest buzzword in the technology industry, which does like its
jargon, let’s face it, big data is something that could prove very
valuable to your business.

So without further
ado, let’s have a look at what big data actually is.

Big data is a
collection of data sets that are too big and complex for the usual
database management tools or data processing applications to manage.

In order to be
able to use this data for various business purposes, the enterprise
has to find a way to carry out key tasks such as:

  • Capture

  • Curation

  • Search

  • Transfer

  • Analysis

  • Visualisation

carrying this out means that companies can then use the data to pick
up trends, determine the quality of research and even prevent
disease, amongst many other things. Data can be collected from a
variety of sources, both inside and outside of the company. Product
sales, financial information, online and offline interaction
channels, all of these can make up a part of a data set.

Structured and unstructured

It’s important to
understand that data sets can be made up of data that’s both
structured and unstructured, with the latter coming from sources that
are difficult to organise, such as social media posts.
Multi-structured data comes from a variety of sources and uses many
different formats and can be categorised as having some form of human
interaction with the machine.

This means that it
can be made up of text, images, web logs, forms or transactional
information. Basically it’s talking about any data that comes about
thanks to the interactions between people and machines, whether that
be web-based or not.

has plenty of uses and with the ever-growing amounts of information
that are used on social and web communities, it’s something that
marketers are taking advantage of and this trend is only likely to

Understand your customers

The key to using
big data successfully for marketing purposes, is that it allows you
to leverage big data technology to understand how your customers
think. This means that you can then engage with them at a time that
is relevant to them and with information on the products and services
that they really want.

big data, you can examine and act upon everything that you know about
your customers and this can be a substantial amount of information
that allows for more accurate targeting. If you look at a company
like Amazon and consider the kind of emails that you receive from
them, they’re always targeted to you specifically, with suggestions
that they think you may act on.

when browsing Amazon’s site, suggested products will appear at the
bottom of the page as you’re surfing. This is what big data can do,
using technology to personalise the customer experience that
increases the chance that they will buy significantly.

Maximise operating margins

According to the McKinsey
Global Institute
, “a retailer using big data to  the full could
increase its operating margin by more than 60 percent” and
harnessing it for the public sector has a huge amount of potential.
Health care systems could benefit from vast cost-savings and could “
create more than $300 billion in value every year”. Certainly not a
sum to be sniffed at and for the US, it could reduce the amount spent
on health care by a whopping 8%.

Governments in Europe could also make
huge savings, which McKinsey say could total as much as 100 bn Euros.
Big data has numerous uses and there’s no doubt at all that it will
also aid research in such a way that’s never been seen before. Of
course, there are also always the scare stories and conspiracies that
mean there will always be some media sensationalist story about the
dangers (such as the NSA and how they use it), but that’s a natural
side-effect of progression.

More research

It’s no surprise
that IBM are one of the pioneering technology companies that are
tackling big data and providing software to handle it either. Now,
the company has also launched its new Accelerated
Discovery Lab
which aims to find connections among massive data
sets, which can in turn be used for analytics.

“There’s a set of data challenges and lot
of different expertise you need to tackle those problems,” Laura
Haas, the labs director of technology and operations told Venture
in a recent interview.

“Everyone is talking about Big Data and
analytics. We talk to our researchers, but it’s still really hard
to get the right kind of insight out of the data.”

new lab is located at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose,
California and already one researcher has used big data to decipher
someone’s personality just by studying 200 tweets.

data isn’t for every company, if only because small businesses may
struggle to find the time and money necessary to utilise it. But
there’s little doubt as to the value of it, in pretty much every
industry across the board.