In the past few years, Big Data has morphed from being yet another IT buzzword into a virtual tsunami sweeping over enterprises and consumers alike. Humans, organizations, devices, and machines of all types now contribute huge waves of data into what’s being called the data universe. And just like the other, real universe, the data universe continues to expand rapidly.
It’s no surprise, then, that more data has been created in just the last two years than in the entire previous history of the human race, according to the Scandinavian research group SINTEF. A quick search of the term “Big Data” yields a tangle of statistics, some as superlative as the term they attempt to define.
One statistic in particular caught my attention: By 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet, according to the annual IDC Digital Universe study. At that point, the world will be looking at digital knowledge in the neighborhood of 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes, up from just 4.4 zettabytes today. (While the sheer scale of this expanding universe is impressive, it’s worth recalling that we sent astronauts to the moon and back using computers with only 2 kilobytes of RAM.)
In addition to Big Data’s scale, complexity, and variety, two other phenomena are worth highlighting.
- First, enterprises bear responsibility or liability for the vast majority (some studies estimate as much as 85 percent) of this data. Yet more than two-thirds of it has actually been created by individual consumers. Consider Facebook, whose 829 million users worldwide log in daily to create more than 4.5 billion “likes” as well as status updates and photo shares. Not surprisingly, all that data helped Facebook bring in $2.9 billion in revenue during the second quarter of 2014 alone.
- Second, the vast majority of data never gets used. In fact, as MIT Technology Review Senior Editor Antonio Regalado noted in a 2013 article, only 0.5 percent of all data is ever analyzed.
The infographic below explores the state of personal data today and the future opportunities it offers. As more people worldwide connect with more mobile devices, the Big Data tsunami will likely continue to challenge us. But it will also open up new lines of business and create whole new job categories. And, of course, new regulatory structures and codes of conduct will emerge even as businesses continue to profit from consumers’ personal data.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Greek mathematician and astronomer Archimedes said: “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the earth.” In today’s world, Big Data is the lever that has the potential to move both heaven and earth.
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