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Big data by Advantum


‘Data are becoming the new raw material of business’ – Craig Mundie, Senior Advisor to the CEO at Microsoft

What is Big Data?

The big data phenomenon has emerged rapidly over the past few years. Every day 2.5 quintillion (that’s 18 zeros) bytes of data are produced around the world. This data boom is due to several factors:

  • Data can be produced without a dataentry clerk at a computer.
  • Ever-increasing storage capacity at lower costs.
  • Increased online activity – online purchases, browsing habits and mobile apps – all of which collect a ton of data on users.
  • Data-gathering sensors in almost every device: weather machines, motor vehicles, GPS devices, even in refrigerators.
  • IoT (internet of things), combined with the approx. 5 billion mobile devices worldwide facilitate ease of data collection.

In essence, big data is a trend in business and technology that uses data derived from large and diverse data sources and a set of enabling technologies to provide sophisticated analytics, enabling insights that substantially improve decision-making and strategic business moves.

How is it Impacting Businesses?

Big data is creating excitement across all industries, including government, health care, media, energy, education and IT. Data is becoming central to business operations and can be crucial in revealing patterns and associations, spotting business trends, preventing diseases, combating crime, etc. Many institutions have invested heavily in data analytics. Numerous data-mining companies have emerged to supply the demand for data solutions, some grossing billions in profit. As the world becomes more data-driven, how can we harness this vast pool of data? New ideas and techniques for navigating and harnessing the power of this data have revolutionized our approach. Through data visualization and data analysis we are able to ask the right questions. Now, businesses understand how it can be used to predict, control and create many different kinds of futures.

There are several success stories for companies who have invested in big data analytics.

  • UPS has invested heavily in software that shortens drivers’ routes and saves millions on fuel. The company no longer needs to rely on the knowledge of drivers to find the most efficient route.
  • In 2011 Google bought ITA Software for US$ 700 million; ITA gathers flight price data from most major carriers and sells it to travel agents and websites, enabling Google to provide predictions for prices for flights, hotels, shopping and more.
  • Walmart, which is one of the world’s biggest retailers, uses this big data to monitor sales and inventory volume, in-stock percentage, gross margin and inventory turnover, among other things. As a result, it could achieve low levels of inventory risk and associated costs.
  • In November 2015 Imperial College in London opened the KPMG Data Observatory, the largest of its kind in Europe, which features an enveloping circular wall of 64 monitors powered by 32 computers facilitating 313 degrees of surround vision. This provides an opportunity for academics and industry to visualize data in a way that uncovers new insights and promotes the communication of complex data sets and analysis in an immersive and multi-dimensional environment.

Everyone has a little piece of the big data action and is reaping the benefits of cost reduction, faster and better decision-making and foresight into new products and services.

Big Data and the shipping industry. How to take advantage of this technology

The shipping industry is striving to optimize performance and improve efficiency. All areas of shipping can benefit from data analytics. Examples are integrating logistics with weather routeing data for speed optimization and fuel efficiency; and anticipating warehousing requirements far in advance. Eventually, the shipping industry will fully embrace the information age, with a fully data-driven operation that facilitates intelligent decision support.

Points of Concern

Information – Knowledge – Power. With great power comes great responsibility. Big data is no doubt a powerful tool which can bring about great harm. Some areas of concern are:

• Privacy: this was clearly highlighted during the Edward Snowden saga. People like to be in control when it comes to what is exposed about their private lives. Data is being collected about you even when you are unaware of it. It therefore begs the question, who now has access to that data? We have been conditioned to allow applications access to our personal data, based on privacy guarantees; however, even the top secret government servers are being hacked. So what happens when these hackers now have your personal information?

• Ethics: How is this data being used? Imagine that a company has salary and banking information about people in a region, i.e. their spending power, and imagine if that same company also has knowledge of their social habits and needs. This company would be able to price a product not based on its value but based on the community’s ability to pay.

• Discrimination: Big data can be used to discriminate against individuals, who may be unaware of this and therefore unable to defend themselves on the content and context of data that is being used to discriminate against them. For example, being denied entry to a foreign country without knowing why.

It is therefore very important to encourage policies that monitor and govern data harvesters and promote ethical and responsible use of the data gathered.

Future of Big Data

Moving forward, big data will ultimately influence every aspect of human existence. The key is that with more information comes the potential for better decision-making. So we can look forward to an exciting future where we better understand ourselves and our environment.