Over the last few years, the term “big data” has garnered an ambience of mystique. Although sources of media have taken a liking to the term, the multitude of ways it has been used has given “big data” an ambiguous definition. As a result of this, it comes as no surprise that people have obtained both a sense of confusion and an ambivalent understanding of big data and its actual meaning. With this said, the question inevitably arises of “So what actually is big data?"
In response to this question, I first must say that given the sheer number of definitions that have been attributed to “big data,” it is difficult to pinpoint a precise meaning. This is made clear in Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier’s book, Big Data, as they claim, “there is no rigorous definition of big data” (Mayer-Schönberger & Cukier 6). Nonetheless, the definition most utilized by commentators on the topic is surprisingly presented by Wikipedia, in which it is stated that big data is, “an all-encompassing term for any collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand data management tools or traditional data processing applications.” Furthermore, the collection and analysis of this data allows for, “The ability of society to harness information in novel ways to produce useful insights or goods and services of significant value” (Mayer-Schönberger & Cukier 2). Given the explosion of big data collection in recent times, this is an important concept to understand.
From the beginning of human existence until 2013, ten percent of the world’s data was created, and from 2014-2016 ninety percent of the world’s data originated in just a two year time frame. Data is being collected at an utterly inconceivable rate, and the amount of data obtained on a yearly basis is only increasing. It’s hard to fathom, but 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is collected per day. The rise of big data has been nothing short of a revolution in information.
Although the quantity of data collected on a daily basis is effectively unimaginable, it is not the amount of data that is changing the world, instead, it is how that data is being used. In the words of Gary King, the head of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, “[D]ata itself isn’t likely to be particularly useful; the question is whether you can make it useful.” This ultimately means that data itself is not driving innovation, it is instead the analysis and thus the understanding of this data that has driven the contemporary revolution in information. Therefore when applied to the private sector, if businesses want to effectively utilize big data-which they absolutely should-they must not only be able to acquire data, but they must also have the means to examine and ultimately comprehend what the data is presenting.
To present this principle, I will utilize one of our case studies, in which a healthcare trade show exhibit increased their ROI by 300%. The healthcare organization of the case study was a frequent attendee of trade shows, and due to this, they wanted to gain a better understanding of their event space at such trade shows. To do this, they ultimately turned to our services at Scanalytics, and we deployed our SoleSensor technology to collect data that could be used to present insights in regards to the organization’s physical space.
In relation to what was presented above, by deploying our SoleSensors, data was able to be collected. However, without an understanding of what this data actually presented, the data itself would not have been meaningful. It needed to be analyzed, interpreted, and made meaningful, and we at Scanalytics did just this. In addition to deploying technology which collected data for the healthcare organization, we also analyzed what the data was actually presenting. In the context of the case study, this included: how many people entered the exhibit, which exhibit entrance was most used, how long people stayed in the exhibit, where and what in the exhibit was most popular, and what dates and times were the busiest, among other things.
We were able to understand all of this through an analysis of the data that was collected through our SoleSensors. Furthermore, to make these findings easily comprehensible, we translated the data into clear terms and put our analyses into an easy-to-use dashboard. This shows that not only did we collect data, but more importantly, we were able to analyze, interpret, and make the data useful. As a result of this process, the healthcare organization was able to clearly understand their event space, and it ultimately allowed them to increase their event ROI by 300%!
Due to the sheer explosion of data collection that has occurred in the last few years, the term “big data” has become prominent in media outlets and thus in the minds of millions of people. Despite this (or possibly as a result of this) big data has been defined in a prolific number of ways, ultimately giving the term an ambiguous definition. With this said, it seems that the fixation on the definition of big data has been unwarranted, as big data itself has not driven the revolution in information, instead, the analysis and understanding of big data has been the galvanizing force of this revolution. This means that to actually utilize big data, data cannot just be collected, but it must be interpreted and comprehended. Such an endeavor can be both a difficult and daunting undertaking, however, by utilizing our services at Scanalytics, data can be collected, analyzed, and then presented to you through an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand dashboard. Additionally, by effectively utilizing big data, a collection and understanding of information can be obtained that was never before possible.
Scanalytics is among the top 10 fastest growing “Internet of Things” companies, measuring human behavior insights through intelligent floor sensors. The SoleSensor platform translates consumer foot traffic into actionable data through a dashboard interface for real-time and historical viewing of trends in physical spaces. Using the floor sensor technology, brands capture and analyze occupancy, traffic patterns and engagement times to increase conversions and improve ROI. With over 80 million impressions to date, Scanalytics has deployed SoleSensors across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Southeast Asia. Learn more at: www.scanalyticsinc.com.