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Explained: Big Data

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Khushbu Raval
Khushbu Raval
Khushbu is a Senior Correspondent and a content strategist with a special foray into DataTech and MarTech. She has been a keen researcher in the tech domain and is responsible for strategizing the social media scripts to optimize the collateral creation process.

Big data refers to extremely large and diverse data collections that are so massive that data management systems cannot handle them.

What is big data?

Big data refers to extremely large and diverse data collections growing exponentially. These datasets are so massive and complex that traditional data management systems can’t handle them. Here are some key characteristics of big data:

  • Volume: The sheer amount of data generated every day is staggering. From social media interactions and online transactions to scientific research and sensor readings, the volume of data is constantly growing exponentially.
  • Velocity: Big data is produced at an ever-increasing speed. Consider the constant stream of tweets, sensor readings from connected devices, or stock market updates. This rapid generation of data requires real-time processing for optimal utilization.
  • Variety: Big data comes in many forms, not just the spreadsheet’s clean, organized rows and columns. It can be structured data (like customer records), semi-structured data (like emails), or unstructured data (like social media posts, images, and videos). This variety makes analysis and interpretation more complex.

What are the types of big data?

Big data can be categorized into different types based on its structure and origin:

  • Structured Data: This is the most organized and easily analyzed form of data. It follows a predefined format, typically stored in relational databases. Examples include customer information tables, financial records,, and sensor data with timestamps and values.
  • Semi-Structured Data: This type of data has some organization but doesn’t strictly adhere to a fixed format. It may contain tags, hierarchies, or markers that provide some level of structure. Examples include emails with headers, body text, and attachments or log files with timestamps and descriptive messages.
  • Unstructured Data: This is the most challenging type of data to analyze due to its lack of a predefined format. It can be text-based (like social media posts, documents, and emails), visual (like images and videos), or audio (like voice recordings).

Beyond these fundamental categories, other specific types of big data exist based on their origin and application:

  • Geospatial Data: This data includes information related to geographical locations such as latitude, longitude, and altitude. Examples include GPS data, satellite imagery and maps.
  • Machine or Operational Logging Data: This data is automatically generated by machines or software applications and provides insights into their operations. Examples include system logs, server logs and sensor data.
  • Open-Source Data: This refers to publicly available data that can be freely accessed and used. Examples include government datasets, scientific research data, and social media data.

How is big data used in AI?

Big data plays a crucial role in the development and functioning of AI, particularly in the field of machine learning:

  • Fuelling Machine Learning: Machine learning algorithms rely heavily on large volumes of data to learn and improve their performance. Big data provides this essential fuel, allowing AI models to learn from complex patterns and relationships within the data. The more data an AI model is trained on, the better it becomes at recognizing patterns, making predictions, and performing specific tasks.
  • Enabling Advanced Analytics: Big data analytics, often involving AI techniques, helps extract meaningful insights from vast and diverse datasets. AI algorithms can identify hidden patterns, correlations, and trends within the data, which would be nearly impossible to uncover using traditional methods. These insights are then used to further train and improve AI models, creating a synergy between big data and AI.
  • Automating Data Processing: Big data often comes in unstructured or semi-structured formats, requiring extensive processing before being usable for AI applications. AI techniques can automate data processing tasks such as cleaning, feature engineering, and anomaly detection. This significantly reduces the time and resources needed to prepare data for AI models.
  • Enhancing Decision-Making: AI models trained on big data can provide data-driven recommendations and predictions supporting better decision-making processes by analyzing massive datasets. This is applicable in various fields, from personalized recommendations in ecommerce to fraud detection in financial services.

Also Read: Explained: Artificial Intelligence (AI)

What are some other fields where big data is used?

  • Transportation: Big data is crucial in optimizing traffic flow, designing efficient routes, and improving public transportation systems. Real-time data from sensors, GPS devices, and mobile apps helps analyze traffic patterns, predict congestion, and develop dynamic routing strategies.
  • Government: Governments utilize big data for various purposes, including public safety, crime prevention, and resource management. Analyzing data from social media, crime statistics, and sensor networks helps identify potential threats, predict crime patterns, and allocate resources more effectively.
  • Science and Research: Big data revolutionizes scientific research by enabling large-scale data analysis and facilitating groundbreaking discoveries. Researchers in various fields, from astronomy to genomics, use big data to analyze complex datasets, identify trends, and test hypotheses, leading to significant advancements in scientific understanding.
  • Environment and Sustainability: Big data is crucial in environmental monitoring, conservation efforts, and combating climate change. Environmental scientists can track deforestation, monitor pollution levels, and develop sustainable practices by analyzing data from satellites, drones, and sensor networks.

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