Sep 20 2012

Where Does Big Data Come From?

It’s being created all the time, often by you. But how?

In spite of what your parents might have told you, the stork does not make deliveries. Big data is being produced at an astounding pace. Most organizations can’t keep up, but those that are analyzing it are finding valuable data. According to Wired:

It calls for an entirely different approach, one that requires us to lose the tether of data as something that can be visualized in its totality. It forces us to view data mathematically first and establish a context for it later.

Read the full article.

Google is probably the best example of a big-data company. It relies on search engine data, such as search history, demographics, social media activity, location and time in order to pair a searcher with a result. But organizations don’t need to go that far to benefit from data For example, the city of Boston is using data collected from smartphones to repair potholes. There are a number of opportunities for government agencies, including cybersecurity and infrastructure optimization. No, its not glamorous, but it can help keep data safe and save money at the same time. So where, exactly, does it come from?


Typically, when you install a new piece of software, you must decide whether you are willing to automatically send anonymous reports to the creators. This data reveals not bugs, but how much and how often you are using the software. The data may contribute to a marketing campaign, but it also helps developers improve the application.


Performance metrics are crucial to the overhead of an IT department. Big data can reveal trends about how, when and why employees are using their devices and calling servers to improve efficiency.


Everything you do on the Internet is tracked by at least a handful of companies. Sites such as Google and Facebook live and die by the data trail you leave behind. How often you visit and where you click when you discover a new site is insignificant to you but extremely valuable when combined with the behavior of a few million other people. Browser cookies — tiny bits of data stored in your browser — make this possible. But if you’re concerned with security, it is possible to block the cookies.

There are so many places that big data is created that it is impossible to name them all. For example, NASA is constantly collecting data about climate and weather that reveals trends. This information is priceless because it can influence decisions and legislation to protect the environment.

We’d love to hear where you have found valuable sources of big data and how you use it. Let us know in the Comments section.