Big data is the term used to describe the vast quantity of unstructured data that simple database tools could not harness. Now, through use of new big data analytic platforms, it is more accessible than ever. IBM have produced an infographic breaking the topic down into four dimensions: volume, velocity, variety, and veracity. Big data encompasses all types of perceivable datasets, from website analytics to crime statistics to medical research and beyond. Big data can be leveraged into valuable information which can enhance opportunities for large corporations, small start-ups and even the general public.

In this age of ubiquitous computing and connectivity there are more data points than ever. For example the rise of 4G on mobile devices, greater GPS technology and ever-growing social networks on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (which have 1.16 billion users, 465 million users and 225 million users respectively), all add to the volume of data – 2.7 zettabytes* was created and shared in 2012. It’s noteworthy that 90% of the world’s current data has been created and shared in the last two years, as illustrated by the graph below and the trend in volume is expected to continue. Therefore there has never been a more appropriate time to harness this data.

Big data can boost business efficiency and sales. Businesses can use it to find insights into new and emerging data that was previously inaccessible. It enables them to understand their market demographics better and make informed predictions – without having to be a qualified data scientist. The benefits to businesses are that they can reduce costs, improve pricing, understand the customer better and thus increase revenue.

The increasing amount of data and the increasing opportunities to derive value from it, present a new source of competitive advantage. Big data is becoming increasingly prominent and the analytic platforms look set to go mainstream.

 Data Growth Graph


* 1 Zettabyte = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes


By Edward Rowley and Toby Smollett


Sources: IBM: “What is big data?”, FT blogs, Forbes: “What big data can do for small businesses”, ICAEW: Big Data help-sheet, IDC "Extracting Value from Chaos".