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BW Businessworld

Extremely Big Numbers

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You may not be aware of this, but if you use a cellphone, a digital camera or social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest, regularly, you are adding to the digital data deluge. Ditto if you buy things regularly — or stream songs — online. You are playing a role in generating the 2.5 quintillion bytes (that’s 2.5 followed by 17 zeros) of data that gets added daily.
There are a few things you need to know about this data that you are creating. First, this data is going to exist forever in the virtual space — even if you are using one of the specialised scrubbing tools to remove the more embarrassing things you have posted online. Two, marketers are extremely interested in all this data — and that does not mean only the postings on the social media. Finally, there are dozens of companies that are collecting all your data to analyse the patterns of your life. In fact, they want to know what you are doing real time, so that they can tailor their marketing plans for you on the fly.
All that sounds very creepy and a monumental invasion of your privacy — and it is. It is also a huge business opportunity for tech companies of every hue and, of course, for marketers.
Big Data is a relatively new phenomenon. IBM estimates that 90 per cent of all digital data residing in the world today was created in the past two years. One reason for that is there are a lot more digital devices today — and they are mostly networked. Even if they are not networked, the data is often being uploaded online. (An example of that is when you post that video of your family on YouTube or share your photos on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest). The second factor is that digital storage has been getting progressively cheaper and now you can buy many terabytes of storage space for minuscule amounts, which makes people store things online all the time.
Big Data is a huge business opportunity because none of the rules or tools of data storage and analysis work with unstructured data sets that run into petabytes and exabytes. Assistant editor Vishal Krishna wrote our cover story on the big opportunity in Big Data for our tech industry, and the startups that are jumping in to cash in on that.
Meanwhile, the big event of last fortnight was P. Chidambaram’s budget. It seems to have got a cautious thumbs up from most corporate observers. (Predictably, the opposition parties have trashed it.) My view is that it is long on intent — but whether the execution matches up to plan remains to be seen.

bweditor(at)abp(dot)in, (at)prosenjitdatta

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 25-03-2013)