Can you trust Big Data?

LET me start on a humorous note that surfaced on Facebook recently: “Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”

I think this is wrong on both counts, actually: just ask anyone who has teenage kids, or ask any Google user that knows how to spell ‘NSA’.

For the purpose of this discussion lets define ‘big data’ with my 5V’s (expanded from Gartner): the exponential growth of data-velocity, -variety, -volume, -virility and -value. In other words, a lot like before but vastly larger, faster, more varied, more viral and massively valuable — and in the aggregate of these five trends lies its mind boggling potency. IMHO, Big Data’s economic and social importance will rival that of the oil economy by 2020 — and mobile devices are already the key driver of big data, globally.

The global adoption of smart phones and tablets (and soon, wearables and the IoT) is the reason that ‘Big Data Companies’ such as Google can now go way beyond data that is merely observed (tracked) or volunteered (as in social media) to incorporate data that can be cross-referenced and inferred, and thereby become much more intelligent. If infused with deep learning approaches and artificial intelligence the concept of “Google knowing you better than your wife” just might not be too far off.

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