What is Big Data and Why is it Important?

What is big data? Read on for a better understanding and appreciation of its role in modern society.

31 Mar 2020

5 mins read

Companies are making more informed decisions through the utilisation of big data.

If you're like most people who rely increasingly on their smartphones to keep track of important information, you may have marvelled at its ability to store and process data. After all, data or big data is now established as a key buzzword in industrial circles.

But first of all, what is big data? Big data refers to large volumes of data gathered from social media, GPS-enabled devices and other smart tracking tools, which are subsequently used to provide customer insights to develop more refined products and services. Needless to say, the analysis of such data requires a lot of processing power that is both software and hardware-intensive.

To put things into perspective, in 2017, it was recorded that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day1 - that's more than 100 million Blu-ray discs worth of data. Furthermore, 90% of all that accessible data was created in just the preceding two years.2 if you need evidence of this, simply ask Google; the tech giant processes over 40,000 search queries per second.3 With these mind-boggling numbers, it's also important to understand the key metrics that define big data, so you can better appreciate its role in modern society.

The Big Vs of Data

According to Oracle, there are three Vs of big data: volume, velocity and variety.4 Volume refers to the amount of data and can run into tens of terabytes' worth for some organisations. Velocity indicates the fast rate at which data is received and acted upon. Last but not the least, variety points to the many types of data that are available, which may be structured or unstructured by nature, including text, audio and video.

In more recent times, two more Vs have surfaced: value and veracity. There's a saying that data is the new gold, and it's not hard to see why. From Amazon to Google, or Facebook to Netflix, there's a sea of data out there that ultimately allows companies to make more informed decisions and create business value.

Likewise, the veracity of big data has to measure up, because it needs to be truthful to gain acceptance, especially when deployed across an increasing diversity of industries.  

Global Impact

We are all impacted by big data in some form or another. Whether it's Netflix recommending new shows to us based on predictive algorithms, or Gmail instinctively knowing the next string of words we're about to type; the influence that data has over our lives cannot be denied. Interestingly, two areas in which big data is having a highly transformative effect are security and healthcare.

When it comes to security applications, facial recognition software can now tap on a database to distinguish unique elements such as speech, movement and tonality, making identity fraud harder to pull off. The power of such analytics also allows businesses to anticipate insider threats through behaviours like abnormal login times, unauthorised database access requests and unusual email usage.5

In the healthcare sector, plans are being explored to store all patient data on a consolidated mainframe, thereby making it possible for doctors to eventually identify every patient in the world, who has experienced a particular symptom and their response to treatment.6 This could open up doors to quicker, more accurate diagnosis and follow-throughs, with the eventual goal of lower mortality rates worldwide. Now, isn't that a wonderful vision!

Data in Demand

The sheer amount of data that has to be processed means that big data professionals are highly sought after. Top job site Indeed reported a 29% increase in demand for data scientists year over year in January 2019, which also corresponded to a 344% increase since 2013.7 However, job searches by data science practitioners grew at a slower pace, at a mere 14%, highlighting the gap between the supply and demand.

What this means is that this is a perfect opportunity to get on board if you harbour plans to become a data scientist, data analyst, data engineer or even a digital marketing manager. And it all begins with a big data course, where you'll learn about techniques in data mining, visualisation, analysis and much more! For your first step towards an exciting career in big data, check out our Bachelor of Computer Science (Big Data ) programme awarded by SIM-University of Wollongong as well as programmes offered by SIM-University of London.

1 Domo Learning Center, 2017: Data Never Sleeps 5.0

2 Forbes, 21 May 2018: How Much Data Do We Create Every Day? The Mind-Blowing Stats Everyone Should Read

3 internet live stats: Google Search Statistics

4 Oracle: What is Big Data?

5 Information Security Solutions Review, 30 May 2019: The Top 7 Security Analytics Use Cases for Businesses

6 LinkedIn Pulse, 19 Dec 2017: Impact of Big Data on the World in 2018

7 Search Business Analytics, 31 Jan 2019: Demand for data scientists is booming and will only increase

Posted online, 31 March 2020