Trying to put a value on the power of big data is a bit like asking how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. The answer is both everything and nothing at all. It depends largely on how meaningful the data is to the individual or business using the data.
To put big data in context, it helps to look at the sheer volume of data being discussed. Industry watchers IDC Research expect the annual amount of data created, shared and digested by 2020 to be about ”5,200 gigabytes for every human being the planet…50 times the amount of per-person data than in 2010.”
At present, IDC estimates that roughly one-quarter of the data floating around in the universe has the potential to be useful. That’s encompasses everything from healthcare data to tax information, from cell phone data and driving records. But, and here’s the jump, only about .5 percent of that potentially useful data is currently analyzed. Put simply, un-analyzed data is a bit like printing road signs in binary code – not particularly useful to the average user. The race is on to figure out how to sift through and analyze massive amounts of data.
Big Gap for Little Guys?
Intuit’s own research indicates that big data could mean a lot for small businesses. But Laurie McCabe, cofounder of the SMB Group, says simply turning on the “big data firehose” is not the answer. While the number of medium-sized businesses hoping to tap into the big data boom is promising, their smaller bretheren are hard pressed to find a way to do the same. McCabe says a mere 18 percent of small businesses surveyed by SMB Group have purchased or plan to purchase the tools necessary to make sense of their big data.
Big Expectations and Big Bucks
According to McKinsey analyst Michael Chui, “big data is the next frontier for innovation.” Chui and many of his industry cohorts believe that data will be the key differentiator for companies competing in today’s market. To quote a little Hollywood, “follow the money.” The figures add up, and Chui and his fellow experts aren’t blowing smoke. Spending on big data technologies, something IDC calls “the third platform,” will reach nearly $13 billion in the coming year if current trends hold true, and will balloon to nearly $20 billion in a mere three years.
Consider that: $20 billion, is roughly equivalent to the GDP of Zimbabwe, Samoa and Oman combined. Granted, these aren’t three of the world’s biggest economies, but at the same time, a figure that can’t be ignored, either.
For more on Intuit’s take on big data trends, check out Sizing up Big Data for Small Business.