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What does Big Data Mean to You?

What does Big Data Mean to You?

Big Data – another buzz phrase in the IT world currently. But what does it mean and does it affect you?

As we all know, we are relying on electronic data more and more. There are few places that rely on paper kept records, maybe some legal, health and smaller manufacturing companies. But even these are migrating systems across from paper to electronic records.

Data stream image

This adds benefits, of course. It gives the ability to easily access and share data, to compare and interrogate data and (should) offer more security.

On the downside, as with paper records, the more data that is kept, the more storage is needed and the more processing power is needed to manipulate and search this data.

But what is Big Data? Basically, with more and more being kept electronically it gives the ability to create useful applications to search and manipulate the data to offer greater insights into trends and for continual monitoring. For example, Rolls Royce monitors every one of their engines on commercial airliners all the time they are in use. Important statistical data is fed back to the Company’s offices in the UK from all around the World. This data is then monitored by software which flags up any anomalies to the engineers, who can then contact the airline to advise if further action is required. It is preventative maintenance on a massive scale and, with a plane taking off from somewhere every few seconds, a massive amount of data. The scale of data, storage and processing power involved epitomises Big Data!

Banks of Servers

So, that’s great for big, multinational companies but what about the SME? Does Big Data mean anything to them? In a word, yes. They may not have their own massive data centres or be collating millions of records themselves but, there are now facilities where data can be uploaded onto shared storage, giving smaller companies the ability to access vast amounts of data that is relevant to their industry, and from that many applications and trends are being spotted. An example of this would be where data on cycle accidents in London were made available on such a shared site. Someone then developed an app which took this data, analysed it and highlighted accident blackspots for cyclists around the Capital. A fairly simple but useful application, though something which the holder and collator of the original data had not done themselves.

However we love or hate the thought of our data being bounded around, Big Data is definitely here to stay. The next question is, how will you use it?

For a really useful insight into Big Data, catch up with BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory on BBC iPlayer from 24/03/2014 at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer.