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Understanding why Big Data Matters – With a simple example


The digital universe has certainly come a very long way since 1948 when Claude Shannon created the name bit as a measure of unity of information. The digital universe, which, according to IDC, was about 1.27 ZB in 2011, is today growing at a rate of 44 times during this decade. While this is certainly a really big data accomplishment, one question remains: why does Big Data matter? Is this just an exercise in the storage capacity or the ability to manage data coming at high volumes or at high speed or both? Well, big data matters not only because of the technological challenges it imposes, it will be the often intangible facts that will transform the way we walk and live.


To understand this let us start with the automotive industry, which just like data has evolved a long way, since the most influential car of the 20 century, the Model T of course, was introduced by Henry Ford in 1908.We have certainly been hearing a lot about electric vehicles and I am not referring to cable cars or hybrid cars, but the all-electric cars like the Fluence ZE by Renault, being used today in Israel. These cars operate a 100% of energy provided by car batteries, which provide a range of 100 miles take five minutes to switch to the changing station and can be fully charged in the stations at home, offices or public places in only six to eight hours. Of course, all of these could only be achieved because of major technological evolutions that enabled longer-lasting, higher capacity, quickly rechargeable, low weight and lower-cost batteries.


Cars and engines operated entirely on electrical power and a state-of-art operations centre that is connected to every single car, notifying them when the batteries need to be recharged and guiding them to the nearest location. So, how is that related at all to Big Data? Well, the secret, that isn’t so secret, about all electric cars is that charging one battery consumes as much energy as a small household; this means that by buying an electric car a house doubled its energy consumption overnight, truly impacting the capacity requirements on the electric grid.


In essence, the electrical cars force the electric grid to be extremely well-managed, to ensure the availability of power when needed, where needed and at the capacity needed, to avoid massive blackouts, which can easily lead to panic and chaos. And that is where Big Data come in. In one hint, the monitoring of the electric grid provides an understanding of power collection, distribution and availability in real time. On the other hand, every electric car comes equipped with a sophisticated monitoring and communications system that provides real-time data on the location of the car and information related to its performance, consumption and energy reserves. Together they generate a constant in-flow of big data in high volumes and from a variety of sources that needs to be analyzed and acted upon in real time to prevent blackouts. In fact, modern cars today are considered major computational end points. Enabling an electric grid with big data means not only collecting data but to also analyzing the data in real time. And this is precisely the core of why Big Data matters.