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As I retrieve this large rectangular wonder machine from my left front pocket, I stare at it in amazement. It wasn’t long ago when the ubiquitous flip phone was the end-all be-all that served one function: making phone calls. I ask myself, how did we come so far, so fast? As I continue pondering this thought, I suddenly realize how much information I, and the rest of the human race, share in this relatively new digital age.* I become unnerved at the possibilities of how all of this data can be mined and collected. Smartphones, the Internet of Things (IoT), and wearable technology such as the Apple Watch, the Samsung Gear S2, or the Fitbit take it all one step further by seamlessly integrating technology with every facet of our lives. “Big data” is generated by all of these interconnected technologies.
Big data is generated by all of us, all of the time. It is a voluminous mass of structured and unstructured data used by businesses, however, this technology is outpacing our capacity to use it. With such a wealth of data and amazing intel, it can easily turn into too much data, leading to big data paralysis.
“Big data is tricky. It can help or hurt your analysis, depending on how you use it,” Philip Kegelmeyer, a senior scientist at Sandia National Labs in Livermore, California confirms. “…[B]ig data can be powerful, but only if you understand the inherent weaknesses and tradeoffs. You can’t just take data at face value.”
By the year 2020, the number of devices connected to the Internet of Things will be as high as 75 billion. That means everything we use that is connected to the internet, like cell phones, wearable devices, cars, security systems, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, and countless other devices will be fair game for businesses to mine data from.
Businesses are mining this data for a variety of non-nefarious reasons such as uncovering hidden patterns, finding market trends, customer preferences, improving customer service and many more. On a more personal level, data mining can be used to help people live healthy lifestyles— without invading their privacy and security. What’s amazing is that because of the size and speed of incoming data, 99.5% of newly created data is not captured and analyzed.
So what does this all mean for us? It means that each of us is continually emitting data, whether we know it or not, ripe to be picked by data analytics and software. Almost every facet of society is connected to the internet. When you’re surfing the internet and you find ads that are geared to your particular tastes, that’s because of data mining. To be sure, the positive attributes of data mining and big data are many, but it is still unsettling nevertheless. I look at my smart phone and this thought occurs to me: watch what you say on social media platforms.
*Q. How much data is produced every day?A. The amount of data is growing exponentially. Today, our best estimates suggest that at least 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is produced every day (that’s 2.5 followed by a staggering 18 zeros!). As the infographic points out, that’s everything from data collected by the Curiosity Rover on Mars, to your Facebook photos from your latest vacation.
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