We have all heard of Big Data – the phrase that frequently appears in headlines, infamous for morphing a person into a set of data points that are collected, stored, and sold to the highest bidder.
To understand the scale of Big Data, we first have to define data. Data, essentially, is a series of statistics and other facts that are then plotted to draw conclusions. True to its name, big data encompasses this on a much larger scale, a scale so large, it could successfully determine trends in human nature and global patterns.
A single data point is virtually useless, a few binary digits and raw metadata, unsearchable and too sparse to be used, until someone, or rather, a corporation or government, collects and categorizes enough of these simple points to detect trends. A desire to discover these trends often leads goliaths such as Google and Microsoft invoking immoral practices to gather, protect, and utilize data at almost any cost.
This data can come from a variety of sources, including business transactions, browsing history, social media, leaked emails, and general web traffic. In addition to studying these data points, these companies are also looking at how much data they are receiving at any given time, watching for a significant peak or dip.
Big Data, however, is useful and may be worth the blatant disregard for privacy. Big Data analysis aids in determining critical points of failure before they become catastrophic, recalculating risk portfolios for companies, preventing identity theft and can identify health issues by following trends – such as how at home DNA companies function. Analysis on this level has infinitely many applications and is revolutionizing the way we approach significant problems. Big Data gives an advantage to those who utilize it – a significant advantage in today's digital world.
Editor’s Note: This is a simplified version of a complex and ever-changing point of study. There are hundreds of sources for information on data analysis, and if you’re interested, I highly recommend doing some research, as it is an excellent career path to follow.