“Big data” is a term that is widely used today in the technology sector, industry, the world of sports and everything in-between. What is it? What does it mean for the average individual? Why should big data matter to you?
What Is Big Data?
In the most basic sense, big data is all the data collected by the Internet, various systems, technologies, devices, applications (apps) and social media platforms in existence today.
While computers and the Internet have been generating data since their inception, there has been an explosive growth of that data in recent years. Virtually everything a person does online—every email exchanged, photo uploaded, text message sent, website shared and comment made—contribute to the volume of data. With the rise of mobile computing, especially in the form of smartphones and tablets, big data has increased exponentially, as people are always “connected” and generating and sharing data of some sort.
In addition to individuals’ actions, there is the plethora of data collected by devices and business apps. This ranges from equipment that monitors and collects data to the customer interaction data forming the core of many business and enterprise apps.
Taken together, the information generated from the countless available sources constitutes big data.
Why Big Data Is a Good Thing
Big data still represents one of the most important, and possibly positive, aspects of modern computing. In many ways, the rise of big data has opened doors and created opportunities never thought possible.
Companies now have access to a wealth of information relevant to their customers, far more so than ever before. In times past, if a company suddenly experienced a drop in customers, they may have been at a loss as to why. Thanks to the proliferation of social media, however, a company can track in real-time what their customers like and dislike about their product or service. This, in turn, helps the company improve their offerings and better serve their customers.
Big data can also lead to greater efficiency, helping companies, organizations and cities reduce their carbon footprint and improve the environment, thanks to the wealth of data provided by the myriad of connected devices and equipment.
Even the economy benefits, as there is an ongoing and growing need for data scientists to help manage and analyze big data. Gartner estimated that 4.4 million data scientists would be needed in 2015, yet only one-third of those jobs would be filled. In the years to come, that number will only grow, offering all new employment opportunities.
As the above illustrates, big data is here to stay. While there are definite downsides, not to mention privacy and security concerns that will continually be addressed, big data represents one of the most important computing trends in history. In the years to come, it will continue to open up new and exciting opportunities.