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The best summary of what ‘Big Data’ encompasses is the definition given by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier, who wrote the book ‘Big Data revolution’. By analyzing large quantities of data, it becomes possible to discover patterns and interactions that were previously invisible. In this way, new solutions can be found for difficult problems, as well as new opportunities be discovered. A good example of the use of ‘Big Data’ is in predicting seasonal influenza (flu) by Google. By collecting relevant search terms worldwide and analyzing and weighing them is a certain way, reasonable predictions can be made of how seasonal flu is spreading. This is something that was much more difficult to do before. Another good example of the use of Big Data is in the election campaign by US President Barack Obama; how this was done can be seen in the first video below. A general explanation of Big Data can be found in the second video.
The Internet in fact facilitates the availability of an ever-growing amount of data that can be analyzed for all sorts of purposes. Brigid Kilcoin gives a few examples on the Innovation Excellence blog:
• Facebook stores and analyzes about 30 petabyte of user-generated data overall;
• Walmart processes more than 1 million customer transactions every hour, the data of which are being stored on their systems.