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Making big data work

Posted by Nick Prag at 16 October 2014, 15:40 CET |

This week the European Commission launched a partnership with Europe's data industry, planning to invest EUR 2.5 bn in a public-private partnership in a bid to put Europe at the forefront of the global data race.

Announcing the 'Big Data Public-Private Partnership', Digital agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said "Data is the motor and foundation of the future economy. Every kind of organisation needs the building blocks to boost their performance, from farm to factory, from the lab to the shop floor."

Big data is a key buzzword of the moment, But what exactly does it stand for?

Big Data refers to large amounts of data produced very quickly by a high number of diverse sources. According to Commission figures, the world generates,  every single minute, 1.7 billion bytes of data. This is equivalent to around 300,000 DVDs and 6 Megabytes of data on each and every individual.

This data is either created by people, or it is generated by machines such as sensors gathering climate information, satellite imagery, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, GPS signals, etc.

This is a lot of data, covering many sectors, from healthcare to transport and energy, so making sense out of it, and then putting it to good use, is no small undertaking.

But creative use of all this data can help bring about many opportunities, starting in sectors such as transport, health or manufacturing. Improved analytics and processing of data can make it possible to:

  • transform Europe's service industries by generating a wide range of innovative information products and services;
  • increase the productivity of all sectors of the economy through improved business intelligence;
  • better address many of the challenges that face society;
  • improve research and speed up innovation;
  • achieve cost reductions through more personalised services
  • increase efficiency in the public sector.

More specifically, it can help doctors make the right choices more quickly, on the basis of information collected by other medical staff; better manage traffic flows, making our cities smarter; and help retailers offer more personalised products as a result of better knowing the needs and interests of costumers.

There are of course a number of important concerns about the privacy and security of personal data, and the legal and ethical issues this raises. Data protection issues are a worry to people, and these have to be addressed.

But for business and the European economy, the use of big data is a big deal because generating value at the different stages of the data value chain has the potential to galvanise and dynamise Europe's economy, and put Europe at the forefront of the global data race.

Public-Private Partnership for Big Data - guide
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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.