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Big Data: Demystifying today’s biggest buzzword

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July 11, 2013 by ncd6329

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There were 5 Exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003, but that much information is now created every 2 days.”

Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt.

The “datafication” of the world around us is progressing at a frightening pace. Many of the world’s largest IT companies are investing heavily in harnessing the largely unstructured mass of data available to us. Everything we do produces data—but what is BIG Data?

Big Data is defined as a massive data set that is incredibly large and complex. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few. In recent times, IBM has been working to find a way to capture, analyze and employ this data. Big Data presents many opportunities to satisfy business imperatives for many of the world’s largest IT companies.

How do we capture and analyze Big Data?

There are two main types of Big Data that have true business value. The first is transactional data. Transactional data is dynamic and usually references a time, quantity or value—a specific transaction. Non-transactional data is static and usually comes from unstructured social media data. These two types of data are imperative to businesses. From transitional data, companies can perform cluster analysis to identify opportunities. Using non-transactional data businesses can employ Crowdsourcing and textual analysis. Crowdsourcing is used to collect data from large communities or specific groups and thus, provide intelligent inferences regarding this data. This technique is widely popular and used in multiple applications including social media analytics. Textual analysis is one area where IBM excels. The technology that we have developed to analyze textual and spoken-word data inputs is revolutionary—we call it Watson.

What can we do with these Big Data insights?

In 2005, IBM began to develop Watson. Watson, is a supercomputer used to analyze natural language to deliver intelligent solutions based on analysis of Big Data in a timely manner. This computer was originally designed to compete (and win!) against former Jeopardy! champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. Watson’s victory displayed the power, application and future of Big Data analysis. However, from the success of the Watson campaign, many clients are now employing solutions based on this technology.

The world renown Cancer Center at Sloan Kettering is using Watson based solutions to deliver expertly tailored treatment plans for their patients. In a recent demonstration at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, I witnessed Watson delivered a custom tailored treatment plan for a patient that offered multiple options for treatment, each with a corresponding confidence and “best fit” rating. The top treatment plan offered a chemotherapy plan that would allow the patient, a young professional, to keep her hair while undergoing treatment that was a perfect fit for her health and personal specifications. The oncologists at Sloan Kettering are using Watson technology to revolutionize the way cancer patients are treated.

Watson displays how technology and Big Data can positively impact society.

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