6 Predictions for The Future of Big Data

The future of big data technology is not so easy to predict. As technology advances, there are increasingly complex facets to big data.

Consider fields like artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing that are expected to have a huge impact on big data analytics. Consider the rise of personalized technology where consumers are demanding products and services tailored to their individual needs and tastes. Consider that consumers, not just businesses, are demanding a chunk of big data to accomplish actions like finding the cheapest hotels, understanding their genetics and understanding crucial global issues like climate change.

Throw all these emerging factors into the mix and suddenly, there is no 100% clear picture of where Big Data is headed. The only thing we can do is map out general trends and predict the effects a changing big data landscape will have on how humans live, work and relate to each other. If you have any big data future trends of your own to make, feel free to add them to the comments below.

1. Big Data Grows and Grows and…Keeps Growing

Just over a decade ago, the amount of generated global data stood in the range of Gigabytes and Terabytes. In the space of a few years this has exploded into billions of Gigabytes or what is called exabytes. The tem Big Data has been adopted to describe these unimaginable amounts of data that require new methods and technologies to process and store.

Whatever happens in the next few years, there is one thing we can be absolutely sure about; big data will continue being big. Soon, we will start to talk about Zettabytes. This is a term referring to data equaling one trillion gigabytes.

The main reason for this prolific growth with seemingly no end is the amount of devices we are coming up with. Several years ago, data mostly referred to structured data such as videos, images, music and documents. This type of data is still present today and is bigger than ever. But a new type has burst into the scene.

To traditional data, now add data from your phone’s GPS, data from your smart home thermostat, data from increasingly smart vehicles and planes, data from millions of sensors embedded in almost everything and data from more places than you have ever thought of.

We are buying more gadgets than ever before from wearables to smartphones to VR headsets. All these gadgets are constantly sending out data that needs to be processed and stored.

Away from hardware, the internet is growing ever larger. In 2000, there was no Facebook with its more than 1.7 billion users posting videos and posts. Before 2006, there was no Twitter with its over 300 million of users sending out millions of tweets. Before 2001, there was no Wikipedia with its more than 5 million pages.

Combine all these additions to the technology world and you begin to get an idea of just how much data is being generated today. Gadgets, software programs and the internet are poised to keep growing. This means that data will keep piling on. It almost feels like using the term big data will be understating the growth we are about to see in the next few years.

It may sound like a scary thing but it’s not. The continued growth of big data affords some great opportunities for numerous fields from health to space exploration to education. It will also create a new job market as big data jobs increase in number.

The only challenges will arise in being able to handle the gigantic amounts of data, process it effectively and apply extracted information in a helpful and timely manner. This is where AI comes in.

2. The Increasing Importance of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence started out as a buzzword to talk about futuristic technology only seen in Sci-Fi movies. But progress in the field of AI has gone faster than expected. Today, AI is not something just reserved for tech geeks and university research teams; it is appearing in numerous personal computing devices. Programs like Google Allo, Microsoft Cortana and Apple Siri are great examples of just how much AI has gotten so close to consumers.

On a larger scale AI is being used to accomplish amazing things. IBM Watson is a prime example of how AI can bring drastic changes to entire sectors such as health and education. In the near future, AI will move from being ‘something nice to have around’ to ‘an absolutely essential technology’.

One area where it is making an impact is in big data processing. By its very definition, big data refers to incredibly large and complex data sets that cannot be processed or analyzed by traditional tools and methods. In looking for new ways to handle the ever increasing amounts of data, we have come upon artificial intelligence as the one of the best solutions.

Powered by plenty of processing power (either sourced locally from the device or through the cloud from remote servers as is the case with IBM Watson) and machine learning technology, AI is capable of rapidly sifting through large sets of data and most importantly, inferring important conclusions from it. This ability is proving immensely beneficial for a variety of fields.

Take medicine for example. Data is an extremely important aspect to the sector. It provides insights into population health, helps spot a pandemic before it hits and is essential to fighting health problems.

The government also relies heavily on data to improve public services.

The analytical power of AI will prove invaluable to the analysis and use of big data in such fields. Experts have already recognized this and are employing AI in various sectors to help handle data. Take the case of a woman whose illness, a rare form of leukemia, was diagnosed by IBM Watson after several doctors failed to make the right diagnosis.

In the transport industry, AI will help experts make better decisions about how to direct traffic, which roads to expand and when to make maintenance runs. In academics, AI will become an important tool in research.

In the next five years, AI and big data will continue to draw closer, becoming an inseparable pair and defining the future of big data analytics. Without AI, we might not have any other way to handle the boatloads of data coming our way.

3. Big Data for Everyone

Data experts are some of the most revered brainiacs in the academic world. Their number crunching abilities and ability to apply advanced tech to draw conclusions from data is exceptional. Unfortunately, they might not be such a rare breed in a few years. With a set of new tools and technology, everyone is turning into a data analyst.

With AI for example, the need for professional data crunchers will be lower. If a program can do all the analysis for you, why hire an expert? This will be a big boon to small businesses and organizations that lack the resources to handle big data.

Currently, there are various tools that anyone with basic tech skills can use to analyze data. Some of the most popular tools include HAVEn, IBM Watson, Kognitio, MapR and Teradata. One major advantage of such tools is increased access to big data, something that could spread its benefits to everyone from large companies to small enterprises.

4. Varied Applications

When we think about big data, the traditional applications that come to mind are those in fields like health, research and technology. But uses of big data are more varied than you would expect. Here are just some of the most interesting and revolutionary applications of big data. They include those that already exist and those we expect in the future.

  • A better way to grow crops. There is increasing need for more productive farming even as tillable land reduces shrinks globally. Big data could help in creating better crop species, precision farming for less wastage and maximum yield and tracking produce from the firm to plate.
  • National security. Security agencies already rely a lot on data to track security threats and maintain national security. Big data will improve their ability to monitor security status and neutralize threats before they occur. Granted, there are plenty of ethical and privacy issues surrounding this topic.
  • Customer behavior tracking. Retail stores and other businesses are increasingly relying on big data to track customer behavior and predict future actions. This helps marketers target individual customers with personalized marketing messages.
  • Weather forecasting. Perhaps, finally, weather predictions will hit the mark. Weather forecasters are using big data to track weather events, forecast weather and predict catastrophic weather events well ahead of time.
  • Sports. Nowadays, winning teams are not just about athleticism and brute strength. Sports strategies are becoming increasingly sophisticated as teams use big data analysis to improve style and performance.

5. Issues of Security and Privacy

The future seems pretty awesome for big data and the fields that will benefit from it. But there is one challenge that could very well cripple advancement in big data and that is security. With the arrival of the internet, security became a major issue that has continued to bother us till today. Hacks are becoming common and increasingly dangerous because of the information they expose.

As big data grows and becomes more important, so will the number of security threats facing it. Malicious parties will want the troves of data held by a government, business or organization. If this data falls into the wrong hands, the consequences could be disastrous.

As companies work to develop the field of big data, they have no choice but to also work on boosting security. Additionally, companies and organizations must grapple with the issue of privacy. As they get hungrier for data, there is a big danger of violating individual privacy. This is especially an issue for businesses and government agencies.

Companies like Google and Facebook and government organizations like the NSA have already faced controversy over their potentially privacy-breaching actions.

It is a tricky balance for businesses and organizations involved in collecting and analyzing big data. On one hand, the data has plenty to offer. On the other hand, they have to avoid going too far in getting this data that they endanger people’s privacy in the process.

On the issues of security and privacy, there is no solve-all solution. For as long as the world remains a connected place, they will always be there.

6. Real Time, Actionable Data

Big data will get so big until size no longer matters. After all, what matters is not the amount of data but what can be done with it. At this point, we will stop talking about big data and more about actionable data. Valuable data will be one that provides valuable information that can be put to use immediately.

This will require us to refine the tools with which we collect and analyze big data. AI will become essential since it will greatly contribute to the speed and accuracy of data processing. Most importantly, it will help humans make the right decisions faster and with greater faith.

Imagine a future city with numerous aspects that need to work harmoniously for everything to go smoothly. There is the traffic, there are trains, there is the weather, there is crime and a gazillion other things. In an age where big data is the theme of the day, how do you ensure that everything works to perfection?

The answer lies in real time, actionable data. There needs to be a system that constantly collects data form the various facets of the city, analyzes this data and most importantly, provides real time actionable insights to appropriate parties.

This will apply to many other fields including healthcare, government administration, agriculture and manufacturing. This is where the benefits of real data combined with other technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics will be fully felt. Everything from agriculture to transport to public services will become automated with humans taking a decreasing role in most industries.

Big Data to Better Data to Smart Data

We are at a point where so many new technologies are coming to a confluence and spawning entire new industries. Big data has numerous branches sticking out of it including AI, smart technology, wearables, robotics and many more. Together, these technologies will define the future.

Big data has a big role to play in tomorrow’s world. As it gets better and smarter, expect huge impacts.

What excites you most about the future of big data? Leave your comments below.

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