What is big data?

Definitions of big data vary. However, such organisations as McKinsey and Gartner and even the ICO have devised definitions that summarise the technology and how it ought to work:

“Big data is high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.”

“‘Big data’ refers to datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage, and analyse. This definition is intentionally subjective and incorporates a moving definition of how big a dataset needs to be in order to be considered big data… We assume that, as technology advances over time, the size of datasets that qualify as big data will also increase.”

“Before the advent of big data, analysing a dataset involved, in general terms, deciding what you wanted to find out from the dataset and constructing a query to find it, by identifying the relevant entries. Big data analytics, on the other hand, often involves running a very large number of algorithms against the data in order to find correlations, rather than testing a particular hypothesis.”
“Big data and data protection” – Information Commissioner’s Officer


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