Big Data: Good, bad and the ugly

It is enough to drive most marketers to drink, but few have an answer to the question of just how businesses will cope with the so-called Big Data explosion.
As usual, it depends on who you believe. If Oracle is your, well, oracle, you may believe that the future will pose major problems for storage and processing.
According to Oracle president Mark Hurd: “Data is growing exponentially – in some cases by 35 to 40% a year. This is causing big problems for our customers and tremendous economic pressure.”
He warned that growth in data demands from smartphones, laptops and sensors meant that by 2016 there would be three times as many devices connected to the Internet as there are people on the planet and that there would be an 18-fold increase in mobile data traffic.
Hurd claimed that 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, driving a twentyfold increase in the amount of information being sent back to servers. Pressure on businesses and security are likely to increase rapidly.
Meanwhile analyst firm Gartner has projected that the growth of the market will generate 4.4 million jobs in the data sector by 2015.
According to Gartner senior vice president and global head of research Peter Sondergaard, this boost in demand may be accompanied by a lack of qualified candidates to fill the growing field of big data.
“There’s not enough talent in the industry. Our public and private education systems are failing us. Therefore, only one-third of the data jobs will be filled. Data experts will be a scarce, valuable commodity,” he predicted.
“Data leaders will need immediate focus on how their organisation develops and attracts the skills required. These jobs will be needed to grow your business. These jobs are the future of the new information economy.”
But, closer to home, Communisis Data Intelligence managing director Jon Cano-Lopez – who has worked in the data industry for more than 25 years – says talk of Big Data is something of a joke.
Speaking at the recent DataIQ Conference, Cano-Lopez said: “It makes me laugh when I read about Big Data. It hasn’t just appeared – it’s been around for years.”
He maintained that it would be far too intrusive to use much of the data that companies are now collecting and recommended they should follow tried and tested checks – including what’s valuable, what’s useful, what’s accurate and what’s acceptable – before mining their customer information.
Cano-Lopez cited the stark difference between the information that Amazon holds compared with Facebook.
As he said: “When Amazon recommends a product or service based on your past behaviour, that is seen as useful. If Facebook were to target you on posts, location or comments, that would be seen as far too intrusive.”
It seems the rather unpalatable truth is that just because you have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds gathering the data, it doesn’t mean you can use it all. And if that doesn’t get you reaching for hard-stuff, nothing will.
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