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The human face of big data

Jan 21 2013, 02:59 IST
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SummaryWhat if doctors could accurately predict for all heart attack patients that have had their first attack their risk of dying from a second in the next two years?

What if doctors could accurately predict for all heart attack patients that have had their first attack their risk of dying from a second in the next two years? Imagine what this would mean for India, where heart attacks are most common non-infectious disease. MIT researchers have already made that possible by analysing 10 full hours of data per patient. This is the potential of big data!

Big data is a simple term used to describe the emergence of incredibly powerful ways to gather and analyse digital information to gain new insights about nearly every aspect of our world and lives. This is being made possible due to the increasingly digital and connected nature of our world; our ability to create, store and access digital information in real time; and the evolution of technology to apply creative and powerful analytical tools to the information, to create new, unexpected insights that promise to help solve our most intractable problems and highlight some of our greatest opportunities.

Progressive businesses and governments are already alive to the promise of big data and its impact on developing and emerging economies can be even more far reaching. India with its IT expertise has the opportunity to be a significant beneficiary. But like with any opportunity that promises a revolution comes responsibility, this one is no exception. The concern for data privacy is not speculative anymore; it needs to be amicably discussed amongst stakeholders as big data benefits all.

In 2011, the world created a staggering 1.8 zettabytes of digital information and this is expected to grow 50 times by 2020, as per an EMC sponsored Digital Universe study. In India, digital information will grow from 40,000 petabytes to 2.3 million petabytes, in this decade. Big data looks beyond sheer volume by bringing velocity, variety and value dimensions to this information. Utilising those zettabytes of structured and unstructured data and putting them to work can be significant in data monitoring and trend analysis like visualising epidemics, identifying cures, augmenting scientific discoveries, identifying economic volatility and trends, or enhancing and simplifying decision making.

Big data in real-world is not a next-generation outcome. It is already prevalent and is being leveraged right now. A recent relevant example of big data is the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle or the “God particle”, one of most significant discovery in our times. It is noted that scientists had to analyse more than 800 trillion

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