Guest View: Big Data: Enabling serious competitive advantage

Tim Moylan, President, Asia-Pacific, Infor

In this day and age, healthcare professionals and university researchers are able to sometimes predict the outbreak of potentially deadly diseases such as dengue fever and malaria. It is also no surprise that song-finding application, Shazam is able to predict next year's movers-and-shakers in the music industry from their users' collective music preferences.

Five years ago, the industry and consumers had barely heard of the term "Big Data". Now, you can hardly read a technology journal or attend a conference without coming across an article or sales pitch pertaining to Big Data. Despite all the hype, the actual meaning of Big Data and its application aren't always clearly articulated, though the concept is actually a fairly simple one. Big Data simply refers to our growing ability to process a vast quantity of unstructured data in real-time. This understanding is often lost in the hype.

Why is it becoming important now? The powerful technology and innovation behind Big Data can translate infinite amounts of information - from the price of groceries among hundreds of supermarkets to the text of millions of books - into searchable form, and uses our increasing computing power to unearth revelations that we never could have seen or known before.

With the rise of smartphones with GPS and internet connectivity, Big Data and social media are converging into real-world business opportunities when content and information are generated. Companies post questions in the social media space to generate informal direct feedback from the consumers. This spawns mountains of data, therefore producing vital information that has the potential to ease decision making and generate profits when analysed. 

  • According to IDC's (International Data Corporation) list of 2014 predictions, sales of smartphones and tablets will continue at a torrid pace while outlays for servers, storage, networks, software, and services will fare better than in 2013. 1
  • Social technologies will become increasingly integrated into existing enterprise applications over the next 12-18 months. In addition to being a strategic component in virtually all customer engagement and marketing strategies, data from social applications will feed the product and service development process.1

How big is Big Data? Big Data has been touted as the next big thing that will change the way we think about business, health, politics, education, and modernisation in the coming years. However, it is also important to remember that it is not just about capturing more data on a daily basis. It is also about using more data in daily activities to churn out effective information that will help CIOs and marketing teams make decisions better.

  • 2.7 Zetabytes (that's 27 with 21 0s after it) of data exist in the digital universe today with 80% unstructured data.2
  • By 2015, Big Data demand will reach 4.4 million jobs globally but only one third of those jobs will be filled. 2
  • There are 100 Terabytes updated daily through Facebook, and a lot of activity on social networks is leading to an estimate of 35 Zettabytes of data generated annually by 2020. 2

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