big data pence.pdf - J EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS Vol 43(2 159-171 2014-2015 WHAT IS BIG DATA AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT HARRY E PENCE State University

big data pence.pdf - J EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS Vol...

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WHAT IS BIG DATA AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?HARRY E. PENCEState University of New York at OneontaABSTRACTBig Data Analytics is a topic fraught with both positive and negativepotential. Big Data is defined not just by the amount of information involvedbut also its variety and complexity, as well as the speed with which it mustbe analyzed or delivered. The amount of data being produced is alreadyincredibly great, and current developments suggest that this rate will onlyincrease in the near future. Improved service should result as companiesbetter understand their customers, but it is also possible that this data willcreate privacy problems. Thus, Big Data is important not only to studentswho hope to gain employment using these techniques and those who planto use it for legitimate research, but also for everyone who will be livingand working in the 21st Century.INTRODUCTIONThe headline for a recent article inForbesmagazine [1] reads, “What’s the nextbig thing in big data?” then answers by saying, “Bigger data.” The author goes onto write that this is still the early days for Big Data. In 2013, only 5% of thepotential digital data in this country was analyzed, even though 22% of digitalinformation is a candidate for analysis. Several different consulting firms concurwith some variation of the label that, “Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation,Competition, and Productivity” [2]. Bernard Marr has enumerated ten examples ofusing Big Data that run the gamut from improving healthcare to decreasing urbantraffic problems [3]. Patrick Tucker looked at the long-term future for Big Data159Ó2015, Baywood Publishing Co., Inc.doi: J. EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS, Vol. 43(2) 159-171, 2014-2015
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and wrote that, “In the next two decades, we will be able to predict huge areas ofthe future with far greater accuracy than ever before in human history, includingevents long thought to be beyond the realm of human inference” [4]. It seems clearthat Big Data has become the latest buzz word in the world of technology, butbeyond all the rhetoric, what is Big Data and why is it important?HOW IS BIG DATA DEFINED?The name Big Data (sometimes called business analytics) clearly implies thatsize is important, and this is only one of the defining characteristics of the problem.Most computer users are accustomed to thinking of data in terms of megabytesand gigabytes, but Big Data requires much larger units. Data is stored in acomputer in binary locations that can have one of two possible values, one orzero, and a single one of these locations is called aBit. The basic unit of digitalstorage is abyte, which is usually thought of as consisting of eight bits. AMegabyteis normally defined to be 1,000,000 bytes, although computer makerssometimes define it as being the number 2 raised to the 20th power. Thisgives a value slightly different from the one million bytes, but the difference issmall and for the purposes of this discussion the more common definition of a
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