Big Data reminds me of the millennium bug.
Y2K bug (or millennium bug) paranoia heightened in the last five years of the past century. The fear resulted from the practice of abbreviating the four-digit year to two digits, which could potentially have created a huge problem on computer/ digital systems at the turn of the century. The race was to change dates to a four-digit year format across the world so that the systems did not collapse or freeze at the turn of the century.
This created huge demand for software services, which many Indian software firms were fortunate enough to leverage to catapult themselves as global service providers. The catastrophe was averted, and all was well.
A decade later, there is a buzz around another information technology phenomenon, Big Data. Love it, or hate it, you can’t afford to ignore it.
Each of the Four V’s that describe Big Data, pose challenges and opportunities for the future:
VOLUME: With volume of world’s data doubling every 1.2 years, we may soon drown in an ocean of data. Unless, of course, we build technology to stream, store, purge, analyze and channelize the power of this data to guide business decisions.
VARIETY: With 80% of the world’s data being unstructured – text, pictures, video – we may actually not be able to make use of this analytic opportunity. Unless we develop software to enable business algorithms to encode and use the power of unstructured data.
VELOCITY: With longitudinal data being captured in microseconds, our business response cycles would have to move from annual or monthly or weekly to ‘real time’ models. For example, if a telecom consumer encounters a call drop, we should be able to predict the vulnerability of losing him and take recovery action before he churns – all within a minute or two of the incident. No longer would we have the luxury of waiting for a month or two to develop a churn strategy and implement it.
VERACITY: As quantity of data grows, it would inevitably raise quality and consistency concerns, which have to be tackled.
All this is both scary and exciting, depending on which side of the coin you are looking at. The mammoth proportion is fearsome. It is a like a huge tidal wave – a data Tsunami – that the world has ever encountered. It is the fear of the unknown.
Big Data is exciting, especially for the analytics professionals, for exactly the same reasons. Imagine a world where data driven analytics is at the core of every aspect of life – business, medical, sociological and personal. Analytics, powered by Big Data, has the potential of creating intuitive decision models that replicate or even beat the best human brains.
This brings me to the headline of this piece – what is common between hurricanes and strawberry Pop tarts? Walmart’s analytical models crunched POS and weather data and discovered that when a city is hit by hurricanes, the sale of Strawberry Pop tarts goes through the roof. This was a surprising discovery from analytics, which is difficult to explain rationally. The retailer benefited by shipping truckloads of the brand to stores in cities where weather reports predicted the arrival of hurricanes. This is just a small example of how Big Data analytics could change our world.
This blog post has been written by PRANESH MISRA, Chairman & Managing Director, Brandscapes Worldwide.
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