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Big Data –Those Who Control it Have the Power

BigDataLast month, I had the opportunity to hear Edd Dumbill speak at the annual conference of SLA’s Pharmaceutical and Health Technology Division Conference in Philly. Edd’s topic was Big Data.

Every organization has more and more digital data that is woven into all the organization does. It is a sort of “digital nervous system”. We’ve all heard a lot about Big Data in the last year, but Edd defined it as “smart data”.

Edd said “…the supreme change big data has brought is the ability to examine every single data point in a population.”

Both Google and Facebook use big data to deliver search results and personalized recommendations and advertisements. Today’s low cost of computer power along with cloud computing means anyone can easily get started crunching big data sets, using the three “Vs”:

  • volume, a larger amount of data than conventional systems can process
  • velocity, or speed of processing
  • variety, or unstructured data and multiple data sources

I fondly remember Yahoo’s drill down directory to get to what I was looking for, but the web just got too big for Yahoo’s structure. It just couldn’t scale up. It is really hard to write a taxonomy/ontology and expensive to create.

Rather than trying to create ontologies and getting folks to tag data, Edd recommends classifying data in its natural categories and labeling them from there. Big data allows us to do a lot of that automatically.

Ed says that the hottest job of the decade is “data scientist”, which brings together decision science and business intelligence in addition to product marketing and analytics with a deep curiosity to go beneath the surface and discover/distill a challenge down to a very clear set of hypotheses that can be tested. He also listed the ability to use data to tell a story and to look at problems in creative ways.

A lot of transactions happen on the computer, from supermarket inventories to gift ordering. We access big data everytime we use Amazon. Everything we do leaves a digital trace. Insight and competitive intelligence can be derived from what someone searches.

Businesses which leverage big data will thrive. No one size fits all for how the organization benefits from big data. Think of a problem to solve, and then leverage big data.

Who has the power? Those who control the data.

See Edd’s presentation at: Edd.me/slapht-big.

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