Big data is defined by the immensity of data and information generated on most any topic. It is immense because of the multiple avenues by which data is created. Methods for collection and capture can be electronic (sensors), human (social networks), and observational (research, reviews) and can come from any number of sources on a local, national, and global scale. The data may come in diverse forms – numerical, text, locational or spatial. This tsunami of data has inundated those needing to manage raw information, analyze, interpret and ultimately deliver that data to inform on a subject. The collection and transformation of data into information then knowledge and eventually wisdom is the big challenge today. Decision makers understand that those who can first corral the tidal wave of data will have competitive advantages in the marketplace. Thus there is a race to develop means to efficiently capture, integrate, and analyze big data.
The concept that big data is a new natural resource was reported by Erwin Gianchandani on the speech by David McQueeney, VP Software (IBM Research) in his June 27, 2012 presentation in Washington, DC, “Big Data: The New Natural Resource.” A resource is defined as necessary or useful to humans. In today’s world there is little more important than information as it directly impacts our quality of life. As with any natural resource, efficiency of harvesting, quality of the material, access to markets and availability directly impact it usefulness and value. Big Data then becomes a renewable resource when analyzed differently and continually to support infinite decision scenarios. Depending on your immediate point of view (POV), the data will give you one answer. When viewed from an alternative POV, the data presents yet another answer. Thus the same data can provide multiple correct answers and is renewable.
When big data is harvested the resulting informational resource is used to build solutions. In the Geographic Information System (GIS) marketplace, this resource can be combined with other raw informational resources to produce accurate, current and reliable insight into any problem with a geo-context. Want targeted insight to pollution and the impact roads and increased automobile usage have on it, leverage big data via GIS. Change the combinations of information resources used and that same GIS can provide answers on a completely different scale. As instruments such as smartphones, GPS or other readily accessible hand held devices collect data with location, that new data resource is added, refreshed and subsequently renewed.
Unlike the oil, gas and coal we pull from the earth to power our manufacturing plants or heat our homes, big data fuels our decision making, is truly abundant and will never be exhausted.
Guest blogger, Greg Reinecke
© Baldwin H. Tom CMC