“Big Data” and “Analytics” have been buzz words in the business community for some time now. You could easily find many articles and seminars with titles like “Big Data” “Analytics”“Data scientists” etc. “Information is natural resource with infinite potential” and “Data changes the world” are only some of the quotes by leading business executives.
What is so special about Big Data today? After all, data collection has been around for some time and thus nothing seems to be new with data itself. And yet, we are left with the impression that something about data is changing and a new trend is emerging.
So what is new about data? Why do we call it Big Data? What is Analytics? How do we make sure we capture value from data?
Data is not reserved for a group of selected few, equipped with the knowledge of math, statistics, and programming. With the rapid advancement of technology, many of us could easily access abundant data. There is literally enormous amount of data in the public domain, just waiting to be explored.
At the same time, data security and privacy have also emerged as important issues to be considered. How do we ensure that our data is secure? How do we balance privacy and convenience? Where do we draw the line?
Video & Discussion
Last Friday, we held session #10 of the “Davos Experience in Tokyo”. We are happy to report that even though it was Friday the 13th, we had a very exciting and pleasant anniversary session, generously hosted in the cozy Bath House at the offices of Google Japan Inc.
At this session we discussed Big Data and its implications for society with some 40 attendants and several participants in our online session. Interest in the event was so high that we had to close the registration early due to full capacity. Apologies to everyone who could not register. Please join us next time! On our side, we promise to deliver many more exciting collaborations at the “Davos Experience in Tokyo” during the new year.
Ms. Ishikura welcomed the attendants and opened the session with some remarks about the recent prominence of Big Data in the public space. She noted that while Big Data is not an essentially new phenomenon, the increased use of Big Data in a wide range of industries, could have new implications for our society in the near future. Before opening the floor for discussions, Ms. Ishikura invited two expert speakers working with Big Data to discuss what the big change in Big Data is and what the latest trends are.
Our first speaker, Mr. Yamamoto, working in statistical analysis at Google Japan Inc., noted that essentially, Big Data improves statistical analysis by delivering much bigger sample sets, thus reducing statistical bias and improving the discovery of casual relations. He said that several factors have driven the noticeable change in Big Data since 2010. First, with the increase online activities, more data is generated and collected. Second, we also collect more data from different devices, such as mobile phones, GPS devices etc. Third, we have devised various mechanisms for connecting online and offline data, such as loyalty point cards that are used both in online and offline shopping. All of these changes lead to bigger data generation, more effective data collection and ultimately better understanding of developing trends, such as flu epidemics, for example. Mr. Yamamoto noted that with the diversification of mobile devices in the future, we can expect this trend to persist. Having advanced mobile technologies and good infrastructure, Japan is well positioned to be at the forefront of Big Data implementation. However, a shortage of data scientists and restrictive law regulations need to be addressed.
Next, Mr. Kawata from Accenture spoke about how big actually Big Data is. He walked us through some pretty impressive figures – 2.9 million of emails being sent every second, 96 hours of video material being uploaded on YouTube every minute and 50 million tweets generated on Twitter every day. Mr. Kawata noted that these, as well as other numbers like the amount of consumed data and mobile data traffic, would increase dramatically by 2017. Mr. Kawata concluded that these trends affect the four Vs in Big Data – volume (sky-rocketing), variety (increasing), velocity (faster capture and processing) and veracity (granulation of data) – and this is bringing a qualitative change to Big Data. Now that we have the technology and the infrastructure, the problem is how to leverage Big Data and how to address the risks associated with data security and privacy, Mr. Kawata noted.
Ms. Ishikura opened the floor for discussions setting two questions: 1. “How do we create value from Big Data?” and 2. “Will Big Data change our society?”
After a 45-minute break out session, our seven discussion groups and our online participants reported their conclusions. Most of the groups focused on how we can create value from big data. A common theme reported back by several groups was that we need to determine what kinds of value we should pursue. Some participants said the Big Data can be used to improve business productivity and the efficiency of public services, others noted that users’ and consumers’ convenience, crisis management and the public social good should be pursued as value goals. One of our groups noted the inherent tension between the companies (who collect, analyze and use Big Data to achieve market goals) and the people/consumers (who generate Big Data). This group came up with the concept of “co-creation”, in which the companies provide a platform and the people are actively engaged in the data generation, rather than being passive subjects of a sample set. Another common theme was that in order to create value, we have to persist in analyzing Big Data and identifying important trends, as well as seeing through that such results are made actionable by delivering them to the companies’ and public decision makers. Some examples as areas where Big Data could create value that came up were the insurance industry, long tail market, pandemics and disasters, public transportation, cosmetics and car safety. Our online participants have focused on how Big Data can help bring people together. They noted that rather than questioning our uniqueness by profiling, Big Data could be increasingly utilized in match people with common interests.
Ms. Ishikura warped up the discussion. In her concluding remarks she noted that while in the words of Eric Schmidt, now that we are all connected we will never be lonely, we have to be aware how much data we share and what could be the implications. Nevertheless, Ms. Ishikura said Big Data holds a huge potential for our society.
At the end we announced the first of our 2014 sessions, to be held on January 10, Friday. The topic is “What are the critical issues for 2014?” We are looking forward to your input on global matters, to set the tone and the agenda for the “Davos experience in Tokyo” in the upcoming year.