Billions and billions of ones and zeros may not seem all the interesting, but when those bits of data contain information that might help someone make money, they become very valuable indeed. Crunching these billions of bits of data has come to be known by the term ‘Big Data‘ and it is a rapidly growing segment of the IT industry. The tools that are being used to analyse stores of Big Data are evolving rapidly also, and one of them – a technology known as in-memory computing – was the subject for my final story for 2012 for the SMH IT Pro website. It was a fitting topic, as investigations and explanations of data in all its forms will be a significant area of activity for me in 2012.
The beauty of Big Data is that its analysis can yield impressive results – in theory, at least. Theories and examples abound of how analysing Big Data might yield information on the progression of an epidemic. It can also be used to get personal – analysing large volumes of data relating to a single person (such as their purchasing habits) might yield great insights into their future behaviours such as the programme run by Target in the US that could determine that a young woman was pregnant.
We are only at the very beginnings of a Big Data revolution. As we become more adept at wielding Big Data tools you can expect to see more and more examples emerge – particularly by marketing organisations, but also by governments to monitor their populations. Perhaps this is why the technology analyst firm IDC predicts that Big Data is a market that will be worth US$24 billion by 2016 – not bad for an activity that no one was talking about just five years ago.