Big data is often talked about from the business, research or government perspective, but what does it mean for consumers?
The debate around big data is increasingly polarised: there are the evangelists who see it as one of society’s important developments, and there are the rest of us who shrug our shoulders and try to work out why there’s so much fuss about a technology that just helps big business sell stuff more efficiently. Big data does a lot more than that, and it’s something that we could all do with an understanding of.
A simple internet search on the term “big data” returns over 12 million results. A multitude of pages offering analysis, software and, helpfully, definitions. For comparison, a search on the word “pencil”, which is probably one of the 10 most important tools available to humanity, returns around 13 million results.
Very few people question what a pencil is, but the concept of big data is still the topic of some discussion.
Comedians have suggested that big data is nothing more than a number written in really large font. While this comment has been known to make some audiences chuckle, at first glance the reality is not actually all that much more complicated: Big data is little more than a massive spreadsheet. Albeit a massive four-dimensional spreadsheet which is being added to in real time. Exponentially.
Is big data better data?
So what’s all the excitement about? There’s been computerised spreadsheets since the early eighties, and just because something’s bigger, doesn’t necessarily make it more useful.
In this respect the simple definition of big data as a really big spreadsheet slightly misses the point: big data is not just the numbers, it is the ability to analyse the numbers and gain new insights that’s important.
So should people really be all that excited about the potential that big data represents? The short answer is yes: big data has the potential to help research communities, governments and businesses of all sizes and create a more level the playing field around the world.
Research communities can use big data to support anything from clinical research so that medicines can be further down the development path before being tested. We can use it to examine the activity of the sun and understand how the modern world might cope if there’s a repeat of 1859’s Carrington Event.
For businesses, improving understanding of customers is fundamental. Big data can help unearth unexpected opportunities and inform strategies that can help maximise sales potential.
For governments, the ability to analyse the extensive data that they already hold is fantastically attractive. Being able to understand how the various departments of a government interact is the first step to recognising where efficiency can be improved. It can also highlight potential corruption. From the consumer perspective, that can mean better use of tax money.
So what’s the problem with big data?
With so many potential benefits, what’s holding us back?
The short answer is a lack of processing power on the servers that drive the world wide web.
It takes a great deal of server power to analyse data in enough detail to deliver insights. In fact, it is estimated that we currently only analyse around 3% of the data that is collected.
The relative shortage of processing power in the current server infrastructure of the internet drives demand up and simply makes it too expensive to dig any deeper.
The quick solution would be to build more servers, but current server technology is expensive to build and manage, so we need a new approach if the benefits of big data are going to be spread beyond the biggest corporations and governments in the developed world.
The Mogu approach is to deploy a new generation of domestic routers that have the capacity to operate as part of a distributed server network. This network will help us massively increase potential processing power, which in turn will bring down the price of the internet for individuals and make big data analysis tools and services available to a far wider audience for the benefit of all.
We are in the process of building our capabilities, so please get in touch if you would like to find out more.
Mogu is a smart router company that is reimagining the infrastructure of the internet. Mogu will shortly be holding its Initial Token Sale. For further details, please follow us @MoguTech or subscribe to updates at www.mogu.io