I found the best definition of Big Data and I think it is worth sharing. It stated that big data is simply about joining the dots of all your data sources.
Amazon is a master of data – it believes it can send us our next purchase before we decide what it is, via what it is calling anticipatory shipping, based on a user’s shopping habits, age, income, even how long the cursor hovers over an item. I guess this is no different to thermostats from Nest Labs that learn from their owner’s behaviour over time.
This is my favourite tale because only data could have revealed the opportunity. Walmart, owner of ASDA in the UK, realised that prior to hurricane warnings, sales of torches increased, but so did sales of Pop-Tarts, the breakfast snack.
So as storms approached, as well as putting torches at the front of the stores, the managers also put boxes of Pop-Tarts at the entrances, and sales rocketed. No store manager would have ever worked that out unless they looked at the data and correlations of events and products. It is not what comes from individual data points that is critical here, but what they reveal in the aggregate.
Zynga, who own FarmVille and other social games, describe themselves as “an analytics company masquerading as a gaming company – everything is run by the numbers.”
I believe that big data could well be the next corporate asset and it is quite possible that it will be recorded on balance sheets in future. We shall see.