The Year of Big Data

The Economist recently published a thought-provoking article on the rapidly increasing accumulation of data.  In “Welcome to the yotta world, Ludwig Siegele, explores the role Big Data will play in our future.  With the amount of digital data growing exponentially (or rather exaponentially), new vocabulary will become a part of our everyday lexicon. Kilo, mega, giga and tera are quantities of the past. When it comes to Big Data, we will have to speak in terms of peta, exa, zetta and even yotta.

Where is this flood of data coming from? Social media and smart phones are the most obvious produces and contribute to the growing abundance of data. Facebook, Twitter and smart phone applications produce an incredible amount of “data exhaust” that collects in a “data warehouse.”  Furthermore as the price for storing data decreases—in 8 years Forrester, a market-research firm, estimates it will only cost $4 to store a petabyte of data—there will be a deluge of Big Data.

A lot of excitement centers around this digital data explosion. Such an immense, and continuously growing, database offers great significance to analyzers, who can extract value from this wealth of digital data. McKinsey Global Institute found that “analyzing health care data could yield $300 billion-worth of savings in America.” However, this excitement surrounding Big Data faces some problems. Siegele notes there are issues concerning talent and privacy. The talent it takes to analyze data is scarce, and predicted to become even more scarce. Perhaps the biggest issue regards privacy. When our every move is digitized and stored in a database, it is likely to stir concern among even those not overly concerned with privacy.  Still, the wealth of knowledge we may soon be able to access about language and culture is immense and may soon be within our grasp.

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