5 Things you need to know about Big Data for 2017

Big Data made a Big Difference in the biggest story of the year – the US Presidential election. Although President Elect Trump had pooh-poohed the impact of Big Data, he rallied a last minute expert team in the just the summer prior that just may have made the difference.

Using digital targeting, the strategy collected information from online and offline sources to find potential voters. With over 4,000 finely tuned messages, a specific one was placed after assessing the potential voter’s Facebook, Pandora and snapchat activity. Virtual grassroots at its finest.

Not being a billionaire or President . . .

What do you need to know about Big Data in 2017?

Bringing Big Data to the people. Whether you are an experienced data scientist or an aspiring one, whether you are in big business or a one-man shop, whether you are worried about your weight or what your government is doing – Big Data is a part of everyone’s future. 

#1 Not a Fad

The 3 Vs (Volume, Velocity and Variety) of Big Data were coined by META Group (now Gartner) analyst Doug Laney in 2001. In the ensuing 15 years, it has gotten a lot of attention from techies, industry and the public. I think it’s up to six Vs now because everyone wants to make their point a little bit better. Like any popular uprising, the hype or substance (depending on how you look at it) reached a certain level of attention before the naysayers want to cast the first predictions of passing fads.

To some, Big Data melts into a crucible of technology slugs and ingots that are pedestrian and passing. But it’s not. The volume, velocity and variety of data available today, versus last year or ten years ago are not about to peak. It follows the Second Law of Thermodynamics: entropy – disorder – only increases.

Big Data is still in the flat slope climbing the learning curve of what Big Data is and isn’t or what it can and cannot do. Utilizing its capability has considerable challenges ranging from its initial collection to its mined “gold” – prediction. The philosophic trellis supporting Big Data is complexity and chaotic systems. It’s tricky stuff that the best experts are still exploring.

It’s all emerging technology with all the nubile stumbling of a todler.   As potential is only unfolding, the impact of Big Data is less like a popular novel and more like the Gutenberg bible. The bell can’t be unrung; it is here to stay.

Whatever is placed on the Internet can never been truly erased, and the exponential growth of data available will never regress. It can’t be put back in the box. Business uses it. Government uses it. Non-government organizations and non-state actors – both beneficent and malevolent (terrorist) – use it.

#2 You’re Wearing It

Wearables will continue to infiltrate everyday life. Right now, the obvious example is your mobile phone. Somewhere in 2014, the number of cell phone subscriptions rose to equal the world population. (Land lines in the US peaked way back in 2000.)

Cell phones provide you with more and more capability that is also your identity. It’s not just contacts and email connectivity. It’s not just communication. It has your banking information. It has your pics and music and social media, all brimming over with the 3 Vs of data. It entertains you and provides you with convenience. Some argue it is also security. It tells you where you are as well, and as it captures everywhere you have been.

Wearables have more relevance with connecting into more robust medical applications – blood content, vital signs, respiration. Shoes have been designed to give directions to the blind. Socks can charge batteries with walking. These may seem like cool or awkward technologies but their implementation will break barriers in ways that aren’t obvious to the casual technology observer.

Wearables aren’t just for humans either. Wildlife is tracked for numbers and habits. Domestic animals also wear their own version biometric sensors. The data analysis is used to optimize breeding and feeding practices. Even a honey bee can be fitted out for tracking movement for scientific experiment. These are data points that have been available in small portions before, but as the cost has gone downward, the capacity of data to be analyzed has gone up. Before it was a few discrete points; now it is a flow with more robust and significant and actionable outcomes.

Wearables are moving into more platforms and becoming more ubiquitous. They can be woven into fabric and painted or embedded into the skin. The Big Data doesn’t stop capturing your life though with wearables. It keeps going.

#3 It’s All Around

Wearables are just a subset of the propagation of sensors embedded in every aspect of life. Sensors will continue to combine with increased ability to interact and utllize that information. The Internet of Things (IoT) started as a cool idea, but you can bet it already has effect in your life. You are always “on”.

Mobile phones and wearables are examples already provided, but there are others you already know. A suite of home monitoring products on the market provide remote control and observation to check on your electricity usage, environmental status, fire protection, doors locked. You can add monitoring to your car as well, but newer models are incorporating more and more sensors that analyze its operation, alerting the driver to hazardous operating conditions and providing maintenance observations.

M2M describes the continuous integration of the IoT as three waves.

Three phases of IoT integration

The first wave is more or less simple connectivity – the ability to do “cool” stuff with nice-to-have effects on lifestyle, like traffic information. As more and more sensors deploy, consumers take advantage of the convenience and efficiency, as well as security options. At the same time, industry and business are increasing sensors, the feedback loop spins faster. Products and services are more economically feasible for manufacturing and distribution as well as desirable to the consumer.

As the Internet itself is the eruption of software – bits and bytes that have become the blood of life, the Internet of Things (IoT) is essentially the physical hardware that we touch and manipulate connecting to the data flow. The embedded technologies weaving together your daily life are becoming more robust, providing an increase in productivity, an increase in relevance, and increase in well-being.

Consumers and society want this capability and they are willing to sacrifice at least some privacy and security for the perceived benefits. See Who’s Betting On the IoT.

#4 It’s Your Business

Big business has been the early adaptor of Big Data. Although Big Data touches all aspects of business – product/service development, manufacturing, operations, distribution, marketing, sales. More importantly, Big Data affects the most important function of business – the bottom line. Big business had the deep pockets to explore the emerging technology, recognizing the not only the potential return on investment but also the danger of not staying ahead of the competition. Sensors on a single commercial aircraft generate 20 terabytes of data an hour. As Big Data expands, the cost of entry is decreasing as the availability of resources extends to smaller businesses and individuals.

We live in a world of increasing choices. The Mad Men marketing schema are iconic caricatures of what capability has begun and will continue to evolve. Your computer already learns from your search history what products and services you are at least thinking about purchasing. That’s a linear example. You search; the sites you visit take the information from your activity to pitch you products and services you are more likely to want. In a way, it’s annoying. In a way, it is convenient.

Big Data will make the message more compelling and more satisfying as it is derived from multivariate activity that accumulates from the 3 Vs. It’s going to start passing products and services you didn’t’ know you needed (or wanted.)

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs

Big Data marketing will know your transaction history, your lifestyle patterns and deviations, and fashion a very, very personal sales message to you (whether you like it or not).

#5 Your Dollars at Work

Governments are getting into Big Data, not so much by leaps and bounds, but more by specific experiments. The United States uses Big Data in several agencies. Fraud, default and illegal activities can be detected or even predicted by observing the huge volumes of data available from agencies that use a huge volume of transactional data, like the Social Security Administration, the Federal Housing Authority and the Securities Exchange Commission. In the interest of public health, the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health and Human Services utilize Big Data for better decision-making on the impact of individual lifestyle choices.

The Department of Homeland Security is another obvious player, utilizing the 3Vs of data available from not just federal sources, but state and local law enforcement entities. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, over 480,000 images were ingested for investigation. Cross pollination of NASA and the US Forest System Big Data resources coordinated to better predict weather patterns effecting ground and space events.


The next wave of Big Data in government goes even further. But that’s not going to happen in 2017. It’s a bit more “out there,” and it is a little scary. (It’s also a topic for another upcoming post.)

Greater Good

The 5 things to know about Big Data for 2017 cut across several aspects of our lives; it’s not just big business, although that group will continue to invest for both ROI and in order to stay ahead. Big Data also isn’t just about lifestyle choices. Wearables and the Internet of Things are building a Big Data trellis that grows the fruit of your life. Businesses that utilize Big Data will nurture that fruit, providing the tools and subsistence to grow the optimal grape.

Big Data is also about a bigger picture too. Ill intent will continue to undermine the soil and bind the vines. The bad guys aren’t going away; they will continue to find new ways to steal, or worse.

Big Data can do really great things. It is used for disaster search and rescue as well as damage assessment. It’s used for wildlife assessment.  It brings together the people throughout the world who want to help.

Is Big Data a silver bullet or final solution? No. Big Data is only just beginning. Is all the technology in place? No. But in 2016 we saw Big Data turn the tide of the US Presidential race.  What will happen in 2017 ??   Stay tuned.



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