Those of us that run in tech circles can agree on one common truth: we love to talk about disruption. Today, one of the most talked about, yet misunderstood disruptions is big data. Big data is poised to be as disruptive as the internet itself.
The Three V’S
The term big data first appeared in the early aughts when Doug Laney, an industry analyst, coined the now mainstream definition of big data. He distilled it down into the three V’s: Volume, Velocity, and Variety. When you breakdown each V it becomes clear why big data is such a hot topic, and why it is so important.
With the rise of smartphones and social networks, consumers easily produce images, texts, check-ins, etc. Organizations collect data from a variety of sources, including purchase transactions, prospect tracking, interactions, and information from sensor or machine-to-machine data. Everyday more and more inputs are created, (I bet you could list 3 right now) and the rate at which this data is created is only increasing.
Data comes in all types of formats – from structured, numeric data in traditional databases to unstructured text documents, email, video, audio, stock ticker data and financial transactions. Amazing new ways of linking data-sets have played a large role in generating new insights. But it is at the cost of so much variety, making sense of it all is a challenge.
As amazing as the volume of data is, it’s perhaps surpassed by velocity. Data is streaming at an unprecedented speed. Real-time is rapidly becoming the only time for larger organizations. Customers expect information to always be available. RFID tags, health sensors and smart metering devices with network connections further foster the immediacy of information.
I would like to add an R to the 3 V’s. Big data, perhaps not in the purest sense, is relative. Of course massive organizations like Facebook, Oracle, and the CDC are investing in big data. But even the corner bakery hell bent on making the finest artisan bread now has access to orders of magnitude more data than they did even 5 years ago. The same 3 V’s are at play.
Fortune 500 Exec or corner bakery owner, we are all dealing with historic volumes of data, in real-time, and often with head-spinning variety. But why is it important?
The importance of big data doesn’t revolve around how much data you have (remember, it’s relative), but what you do with it. We have more computing power in our pocket than NASA had to land on the moon. You can take data from any source and visualize it to find answers to questions you’ve been asking.
I love the corner bakery example. One corner bakery can now connect with other corner bakers. They can visualize where they are, share it in a “small bakers forum” and form a collective to battle the big multi-national producers. They can pull reports on grains from farming collectives, and leverage social media to understand their customer demographic.
Just like the internet, big data, even at small scale, can be disruptive.