It has become a given by now that Big Data is of great value and importance in the technology industry today, and in fact it is going mainstream at a faster pace than any other technology. But some of the main questions that remain unanswered to the most of us are: why is Big Data so important? and why now?
It has always been a desire of man to foresee the future or predict the outcome of certain decisions ahead of taking them, and to do that we have turned to many ways (some of which defy logic), but one solution that has proven more successful than others is to look back at similar events from the past and given similar conditions assume that the results will be similar, and the more past experiences we have the higher the probability of getting accurate results.
One of the most important drivers (if not the most important) behind the Big Data Revolution was the ability to predict the unknown – and here I will jump to answering the question “Why Now?” first; it is simply because never before the age of the Internet, the Cloud and the Social Media, has there been any larger and more accessible repository of information – Big Data allows us to look at such huge amounts of historic data generated by humanity since the early days of recorded history as well as data being generated every day, and helps us in creating the links between the different bits and pieces of seemingly unrelated events and thus finding correlations and deriving patterns.
Since we are talking about huge amounts of past information, the level of CORRELATION can be very high and accurate that for some applications it is arguably as good as CAUSATION. The debate of whether correlation derived from Big Data is good enough for taking actions or making decisions is still ongoing and it heats up more in topics such as medicine and health sciences where the wrong predictions can have serious effects, however in applications where the data is more repetitive and predictions are safer such as predicting consumer behavior, and improving customer experience the results can be simply astounding.
It is such kind of pattern recognition and predictive analytics that allowed Amazon earlier this year to make the announcement that soon they will be able to predict your next purchase. Imagine how convenient it would be if Souq.com (as a local example) was able to tell when you are going to buy your new smartphone from them, and have the exact model ready in the warehouse that is closest to your location, so that once you make the purchase they will have it delivered on the same day; now this is what I call an “Exceptional Consumer Experience”.