So Much Data, So Little Information

Data is all around us. But does it inform us, entertain us, connect us, influence us and divide us? Or is it danger of consuming us?

We all know data is growing rapidly, and all kinds of statistics exist about creating more data in the last two years than in all of creation before that time. If all words spoken by every human who ever lived were committed as text it would consume just over 2.2 Exabytes of capacity, in 2014 we will create more than 20x this figure.

On its own much of this may be a problem or it may be nice to have.

Let’s consider some raw data… 12. On its own it means nothing to us, other than it’s a number, some raw data.

What if we tie it in with another piece of data OC, then we know if we join two separate pieces together we have a temperature, still really not much use to us.

But consider if we add another two elements of potentially unrelated data; London & Tuesday, then suddenly we have

12OC London Tuesday

Now we are able to use the data to make an information decision; we know what to wear, how to travel and what to carry. Several pieces of data used together now have relevance, they have become information.

Let’s take another piece of raw data, what do you think of if I give you the word ‘Bridge’ – a river?

What if I add Playing cards, suddenly you think of a card game

What if I change cards to dentist? Something else again?

The second part of information is context, without context data is no use to us.

For data to of use we need both relevance and context, when we have both we can use the information to make informed decisions. We can use it in four ways;

  • Descriptive –to understand what’s happened
  • Diagnostic –to understand why it’s happened
  • Predictive- to forecast what might happen
  • Prescriptive – to know what to do when it does happen

Sources of Data without context & relevance are of no use, data with context and relevance can be used together in ways we’ve not yet dreamed of.

Remember the Most valuable currency in the world is not money; it’s not data, its information.

Multiples of bytes

Decimal
Value Metric
1000 kB kilobyte
10002 MB megabyte
10003 GB gigabyte
10004 TB terabyte
10005 PB petabyte
10006 EB exabyte
10007 ZB zettabyte
10008 YB yottabyte
Binary
Value JEDEC IEC
1024 KB kilobyte KiB kibibyte
10242 MB megabyte MiB mebibyte
10243 GB gigabyte GiB gibibyte
10244 TiB tebibyte
10245 PiB pebibyte
10246 EiB exbibyte
10247 ZiB zebibyte
10248 YiB yobibyte
Orders of magnitude of data

About Bill McGloin

Bill is Computacenter's Chief Technologist for Information

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