A Big Year for Big Data

Aug 2012

A Big Year for Big Data

Posted by Zaid Rasid

The New York times featured an article recently which spoke about the prevalence of the term 'Big Data'. They made mention that 2012 was a big year for the term and highlighted how we are in a new era of data consumption. Eric Schmidt of Google has a famous quote where he tries to explain how overwhelming our data consumption has become:

From the dawn of civilization until 2003 humankind generated five exabytes of data. Now, we produce five exabytes everyday.

For Better or for Worse?

The media likes to instill fear surrounding Big Data and they liken it to the Big Brother phenomenon, implying that data in the hands of the wrong person can be threatening. But there are many examples of how we can use big data to improve our surroundings.

For example, IBM created Watson, a super computer that was featured on the game show Jeopardy, which is able to comprehend vast amounts of information and translate it into a comprehensible response. Watson is being utilized in various disciplines from medicine to financial services. Citibank recently announced that they will be using Watson to help filter and better understand customer data. The hopes are that Watson will help Citibank better serve their customers and analyze financial risks and investments. Watson is also helping choose the best cancer treatment, piloting this project with Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles. Watson's goal is to aid doctors by providing suggestions for cancer treatment based on the patient's symptoms.

Rick Smolan, a photographer has a project in the works based on his premise that vast amounts of data can be used for social good. For example, in a recent video presentation he talks about a NYC woman who has studied crime data patterns in order to find high crime neighborhoods and then targeting those with social programs to deter future crime.

So we can see that there are many positive benefits that can be attained with big data. At the same time we can't deny the challenges that are sure to abound such as storage, backup, recovery, security, privacy and more, but we can remain optimistic that the advent of big data will move us forward towards a better world.

What do you think is the future of Big Data?

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