Big data is not something new and keep many CIO/manager awake at night. According to Wikipedia, Big data is the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications.
I heard much discussion about big data but nothing beats the metaphor/analogy put forward by Richard Leadbeater, Esri Global Manager for State Government & Trade Associations Industries. Richard was recently in Malaysia as one of the plenary speaker at 17th Esri Malaysia User Conference 2013 in Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC).
Richard is a great speaker. He discussed both the challenge associated with big data and the role of GIS professionals in helping their respective organization to overcome these challenges by leveraging data integration and location analytics capabilities of GIS.
According to Richard, data is our natural resource, simply because it has significant economic potential. Data will help us understand and make more informed decision. It promotes new innovative solutions and increases transparency. All in all, right kind of data delivers societal challenges, achieves internal efficiency and fosters participation of citizens.
If data is our natural resources, then our next task should rightfully be leveraging on it and making full benefits of it.
Richard nicely describes it by the following vivid pictorial explanation. He simply put it, if data is our natural resources, then we have lots of it. Government agencies especially will have lots of it. Data is just like sand, it is available everywhere. Sand is our natural resources that can be used to make building material or glass. However, lots of it might not mean good as one can get lost in the middle of sand (desert).
If our data is a pile of sand, then many Business Intelligence (BI) tools are making nice sand castle from our pile of sand (reads “get these data organized, structured”). Coupled that with location analytics capability of GIS, GIS professional can actually make a big transformation by unveiling location patterns (distributed vs. concentrated), spatial relationship between location (near vs. far, within certain distance or radius, connected with transport network, within political or administrative boundary), etc. Richard refers this as by turning the sand castle (which is nice provided under clear weather) into glass vase that can be admired by larger audience even though during rainy days.
What a remarkable analogy. It is easy to conceptualize yet it is so powerful. Indeed, location analytic is empowering many organizations by enabling better data visualization on a map to see new patterns. In addition, location analytics enable powerful overlay and allow users to combine different isolated datasets i.e. demographics, consumer spending, lifestyle, business data, etc. which share a commonality – location/address to meet new opportunities and gain new insights.
If you are users of IBM Cognos, SAP, MicroStrategy, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Sharepoint, or simply Microsoft Excel, you can get more value out of your big data (making beautiful glass vase out of sand) by turning to location analytics.
P/s : Richard is also active on Twitter via @PolicyMapper.