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The Real-World Use of Big Data: How innovative enterprises extract value from uncertain data

November 7, 2013 • Big Data & Analytics, TECHNOLOGY

In industries throughout the world, executives are recognising the opportunities associated with Big Data. Despite what seems like unrelenting media attention, it can be hard to find in-depth information on what organisations are really doing. To better understand how they view Big Data and to what extent they are currently using it to benefit their businesses, the IBM Institute for Business Value partnered with Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford to conduct the 2012 Big Data @ Work Study. We surveyed 1144 business and IT professionals in 95 countries, and interviewed more than two dozen academics, subject matter experts and business/IT executives. Here, IBM Europe General Manager Rich Hume gives his perspective on the findings.

In the last century, as Europe’s population grew fourfold, our economies expanded by 40 times. This profound increase in prosperity impacted our planet commensurately: in the same period, the exploitation of raw materials grew by 10; fossil fuels by 16, hauls of fish by 35 and water by nine. We know that we must change the way we live and work, not least as our populations start to age and much of our infrastructure begins to creak.

Today, IBM and others remain convinced that data (in quantities so vast and ever-growing that industry folk refer to it as ‘Big Data’) has become the new physical resource that we must tap to help solve all manner of business and societal challenges. Indeed, data promises to do for our era what oil, steam and electricity did for the Industrial Age.

In every city in Europe, a plethora of sensors and gadgets provides real-time data on all manner of events — from hourly energy usage in homes and even individual appliances to the status of a train racing across the countryside. People around the world are communicating and interacting in billions via social networks in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

This digitisation of virtually everything now creates new types of large and real-time data across a broad range of industries. Much of this is non-standard data: for example, streaming, geospatial or sensor-generated data that does not fit neatly into traditional, structured, relational warehouses.



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