These days, the world runs on data. Almost every facet of our tech-enhanced lives, both when we work and play, generates massive amounts of data, which in turn drives an entire industry, known as Big Data, that strives to keep up with it all. After all, there’s little point in generating data if we can’t collect, store, and use it effectively.
All trends for the short and medium-term point to a continued explosion of the volume of data. The main pinch point is finding enough qualified data scientists and analysts to contend with it all. Without the human power to continue creating new ways to leverage Big Data, it will be difficult to deploy this mass of information to its full potential.
Let’s take a look at the prevailing Big Data trends on the immediate horizon and talk about how they might be expected to play out.
Big Data for Business
We’re long past the point where all but perhaps the smallest mom and pop operations thrive or wither on the fact of how well they collect and analyze data, both structured and unstructured, through the course of each business day. Studying Big Data – which is more often now a task shared with our strangely-named new co-workers, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – is crucial to providing insight that leads to better decisions and strategic planning.
We see this in the online eCommerce space perhaps more clearly than anywhere else, as this is where it is most natural to collect information related to demographics and consumer behavior. Once you have enough data to analyze, tweaking products and services to appeal to a customer base is no longer something done on a whim or gut feeling.
Harnessing the power of Big Data for the purpose of increasing revenue has become a much more scientific, reliable process. Expect that trend to continue as AI becomes a tool for the masses rather than only massive corporations.
The Incredible World of Smartphone Data
Nothing has impacted the world of Big Data more over the past two decades than the incorporation of smartphones into our personal and business lives. As if grafted into our palms, rarely are we without this second brain and its endless capacity to generate numbers, texts, graphs, images, video, charts, and other types of multimedia presentations.
And this is with 5G, augmented reality, and virtual reality still only nibbling around the edges of what their eventual impact will be. In other words, if you think Data is Big now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Just hold on for five more years.
Large companies are leading the charge in generating, using, and often losing immense data sets across all industry verticals. With no apparent danger of “overfilling” the cloud, the current trend is to throw everything in the data lake and sort it out later. Embracing the technology required to turn it into usable information has become the latest frontline in the race to find the next competitive advantage.
Big Data Solutions
Right now, Big Data solutions are lagging due to the aforementioned shortage of scientists and analysts to participate in research and development. But even such a brick wall as lack of manpower is not going to be a permanent deterrent. As Jeff Goldblum’s character pointed out in the original Jurassic Park movie back in 1993, “Life finds a way.” So it will be with Big Data solution progress because the rewards are too large to ignore.
Once technology catches up with the pace of data creation, costs will drop in many areas such as fraud detection, the ability to manage data, human errors, and we can expect that all business processes will feel the positive effect and become leaner, more effective, and more secure.
Even the trustworthy virtual private network, a long-time hacker deterrent, finds itself updated for the Big Data world, as newer VPN services run dynamically in the cloud, rather than locally, in order to encrypt the data flow tsunami and prevent the next big breach. With all that to gain, don’t expect that the lack of personnel pinch point will be anything other than a temporary obstacle. Especially once we consider that AI / ML technologies are already contributing “man” hours towards research, which will greatly accelerate the pace.
Not all points on the globe will have the motivation or resources to participate in the coming Big Data Age equally. Nothing surprising about that, but here are a few hotbeds of activity:
China: Long happy to be the world’s manufacturer, the communist leadership at some point in the recent past decided it was time to move into the digital economy in order to compete in the changing global marketplace. Towards this end, the first Chinese national lab (spread over 13 geographically dispersed research centers) was launched to create and distribute Big Data technologies.
South Korea: This country has launched what they call the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI). Built to exchange Big Data technology on super fast global internet connections, this platform was established with the goal of interacting with other projects such as the Pacific Research Platform. Expect these types of academic collaborations to yield advances in particle physics, astrophysics, biomedical sciences (to help create viable treatments for pandemics like Covid-19), and, yes, even virtual reality.
North America: As always, where technology advancement is afoot, expect to find North America with its hand in the mix. With even higher speed internet a near reality, thanks to 5G technology, combined with a ravenous appetite for smartphones and all things internet-related, expect new Big Data technologies to emerge in industries like medical, retail, banking, healthcare, and, last but not least, entertainment.
What started with Netflix now seems poised to take over the world of entertainment. New streaming services seem to pop up every day. You can now get your regular cable television channels completely over the internet (thank you, YouTube). It makes my brain hurt to even try to put a number on the amount of digital data bouncing around between all points of the globe while humanity tries to keep itself occupied online until Covid goes away. This is one genie that will never go back into the bottle.
The wild card we haven’t touched upon yet is the growing popularity of GDPR-style data regulations that are designed to put power back into the hands of individuals when it comes to the processes a company must follow when it collects, stores, or uses your data.
This fly in the ointment of previously unfettered data use has used the mechanism of massive fines to force companies to at least slightly curtail the Wild West mentality that presumed any data that could be collected was fair game for any use. It turns out that businesses will have to tie a more precise line for now. Where this ends up will be interesting to watch.