The discussion of Big Data is no longer if the data exist, or if this is the age of big data. The discussion today is whether big data is here to stay and how big data will play a role in the upcoming sustainability.
Examples of data is everywhere. Companies have slowly incorporated data collection and data management into the playbook of sustainability. 90% of data in the world was created in the last two years, and this trend will continue. We always have a lot of data, but the system of processing this overwhelming speed and volume is coming together in terms of how data is affecting policy and program.
Business organization is changing. And Wayne Balta from IBM talks of how IBM is integrating data technology with business acumen for solutions to any problems that clients need. Wayne talks of how walls are breaking due to data. The wall between customers and suppliers. Wall between average people and experts is breaking down. The world is slowing becoming instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent.
So what are the challenges of data? Volume, Variety, Velocity, and Veracity. 40 zettabytes worth of data will exist by 2020. So what is zettabyte? It is a trillion megabytes. The system is changing from a system of records into a system of insight. Data itself is not knowledge, there is a need of analytics to turn the data into knowledge. An excel spread sheet of numbers can drive people to sleep, but a picture painted with the data can tell stories far stronger than most. But the key here is that a painter is needed to paint this picture.
Big data is then fitting perfectly into the realm of sustainability. Sustainability deals with the three spheres of economy, environment, and social. Take a city data for example. China is building 45 airports in the next five years to accommodate the growth in population, growth in impacts on the environment, growth in the wealth. To understand city, one can no longer just collect data on city but need to look at a profile of data, data in energy, in water, public safety, environment, maintenance, mass transit, roads, waste, technology, human behavior, etc. With open data, infrastructure and city performance can become a consumer play.
Traditional industries such as that of agriculture, of mining is being transformed through sustainability, through big data. The whole system is slowly changing and big data and sustainability can bring about end to end transparency in the global supply chain. Data on food is driving to a precision agriculture where that cup of coffee can be trace back to the coffee bean and where the coffee is planted, who took care of the coffee, how was it done, and how much water was used in the growth process. You can have data by the seconds on that piece of chocolate that you are eating. How about that piece of steak. How many raining days did the cow live through, how many sunny days? How many hours did the cow sleep on the 200th day etc, etc. general data, judgement data, or even specific data can all bring about truth, bring about knowledge.