What does Big Data mean? Digital Challenges for dummies

We're living in a world where everything can be digitalised and tracked and everyone's constantly harping on about the Big Data revolution, but do we really know what they mean?

Besides the obvious translation, large or fat data, it's worth trying to understand what is hiding behind the term "Big Data". What we're looking at is in fact a flow of data so large that it's hard to analyse them even using traditional database techniques.

The characteristics of Big Data

In 2001, analyst Douglas Laney of the META Group wrote "3D Data Management: Controlling Data Volume, Velocity and Variety", in which he describes the three main features of Big Data.

- the volume represents the effective size of the data set. It has grown with the start of interactions between online users at first on blogs then on social media like Twitter and Facebook.

- the velocity refers to the time for information flow, which with the increase of digital devices, such as smartphones and sensors, is increasing exponentially.

- the variety, refers to the structural diversity of the data produced or received from different sources.

Additional characteristics have been added over time:

- the variability which refers to the variation of the waves of data, after all, the same information can have different meanings depending on the context in which they arise or the other data to which they are juxtaposed

- the value: Big Data must have value. It’s important to ensure that the insights that are generated are based on accurate data.

Therefore, to answer our questions "what does Big Data revolution mean", we don't just need to understand what Big Data is, but who this vast, and ever increasing, flow of data is used and processed by means of algorithms capable of analysing this information in a very short space of time. But there is also a dark side to Big Data. The speed with which this vast and diverse follow of information is generated and analysed means it's very difficult to harness, and we all end up being "overseen" without our knowledge and our details, which we've probably quite wittingly allowed to be processes, is then used ostensibly for commercial and marketing purposes.

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