Is the Hype Around Big Data Nothing But Hype?

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If you follow the technology sector, you know that the only constant is change. The gadget you’re using to view this blog post, for example, might be obsolete within the next 10 months, forget years.

The hot startups of today will be overshadowed by tomorrow’s startups that offer even more bleeding-edge tech. This constant churn has led some to declare that the hype around big data is just that — hype.

The Future of Big Data

Here’s what I think.

While the big data field will continue to evolve, it won’t be going away anytime soon, or any time at all.

This might sound like a big claim, but the first thing to understand is that data has always been a part of the modern economy. Since the beginning of industrial manufacturing and national and global brands, companies have been using data to inform their decisions and business strategies.

The difference is that now, there’s far more data to collect.

By this point, big data is ingrained in a huge number of business processes. It’s vital for marketing, supply chain management, staffing, research and development and numerous other fields. While big data isn’t going away any time soon, it will more closely align with business functions and requirements.

If anything, big data is evolving into all data.

The Gartner Hype Cycle and Big Data

The Gartner Hype Cycle, Illustrated

Just look at the chart Gartner published earlier this year on emerging technologies. Although they don’t call out big data specifically, many of the emerging technologies they mention, including virtual personal assistants, machine learning and the IoT platform, use data to track performance and generate big data to define success.

As Mike J. Walker, research director at Gartner said, “The Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies is unique among most Hype Cycles because it distills insights from more than 2,000 technologies into a succinct set of must-know emerging technologies and trends that will have the single greatest impact on an organization’s strategic planning.”

He goes on to explain, “This Hype Cycle specifically focuses on the set of technologies that is showing promise in delivering a high degree of competitive advantage over the next five to 10 years.”

It’s pretty significant that so many of these technologies, which are to deliver “a high degree of competitive advantage,” rely upon big data.

In fact, let’s delve into a few of the ways big data impacts these emerging technologies.

The Connected World Amplifies Big Data

These days, it seems like just about every device is being connected to the web and throwing off data— watches, smartphones, security systems, even refrigerators and ovens. The Internet of Things (IoT) generates huge amounts of data, and companies are looking into how they can tap into it all.

Consider Vivint, a home security company that uses big data to monitor the health and battery life of its in-house systems.

Through big data analytics, Vivint can respond pro-actively to prevent problems from starting. Is a battery dying or a camera malfunctioning?

Vivint often knows before any critical security failure occurs, and can send someone to repair it. In order to keep costs down, Vivint can even coordinate with staff who are visiting a certain area for installations or other repairs.

This connected home movement can deliver huge benefits to consumers and businesses a like.

And as technology advances, big data will only become more important and more closely integrated into new tech. Someday, the IoT may connect all of our devices together, with all data being a pillar or glue of the system itself.

Big Data, the Brain and the Science of Tomorrow

One of tomorrow’s most promising technologies is interfacing between the human brain and computers.

By creating a direct interface, people will not only be able to “talk” directly with computers, but also control robots and machines with their thoughts. This might sound like something from a science-fiction movie, but researchers have already made major headway.

Just about anything that involves working with the brain generates vast quantities of data. Simply put, the human brain is immensely complex and even after decades of research we’re only beginning to understand how it truly functions. Numerous big data efforts are now being undertaken to help researchers discover the secrets of our minds.

A few major projects include the BRAIN initiative in the U.S., as well as the Human Brain Mapping initiative in the European Union.

Experts believe that efforts to explore the inner workings of our brains will generate about as much data as the Large Hadron Collider now being used to explore the workings of reality itself, and the most advanced astronomical observatories used to explore far away galaxies. The human brain is that complex.

Consider that a rat’s cortex contains about 20 million neurons. A human’s? Twenty billion. The cortex, meanwhile, is only one of many regions of the brain. Each neuron, in turn, supports thousands of tendrils that can fire off at any given moment.

Trying to unlock the mysteries of this immensely complex system is going to require huge amounts of processing power, both in terms of computers, and also researchers spread across the globe. Big data analytics has become essential for handling the deluge of data being generated from efforts to explore the brain.

In fact, health care, scientific discovery, and other related fields represent some of the biggest opportunities for big data. Fujitsu, for example, worked with Datameer to build an analytics process around deep analyses of genomic positions and to dramatically decrease the time necessary for analyzing raw genomic data sets.

These improvements have proven vital in advancing cancer research and other medical research applications.

Big Data Is Evolving and Integrating

There are two issues that big data faces, however. One is time. We need time for it to be streamlined. Once, Microsoft Excel was seen as high-tech software that only specialized teams could use. Now, it’s on practically every work computer.

What we envision is a day when big data analytics will play the same role.

The second point, which is related to the first, is that the hype around big data is slowing down. Some people argue that we’ve reached a big data winter. Others say it’s a big data market chasm.

What people don’t argue, however, is that it’s going away. Just remember that Gartner graph, and how many of those emerging technologies rely upon big data.

What Big Data Looks Like Today

The big data industry is evolving. In the past, entire teams of software engineers and data scientists were needed to manage even modest big data efforts. Now, big data service providers are making it easier for companies to work with big data and to integrate it into company efforts.

If the era of “big data” ever ends it will most likely be because an era of “all data” has emerged. Increasingly, larger amounts and types of data will be integrated with more business processes, allowing for sounder decision making and greater insight. In fact, emerging technologies won’t make big data irrelevant, but instead will rely on it to deliver better outcomes.

In fact, emerging technologies won’t make big data irrelevant, but instead will rely on it to deliver better outcomes.

So is big data all hype? Probably not. If anything, it’s the future.

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