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CIO - 'Tis the season for prognostications. Staring into the big data crystal ball one thing seems clear: We can expect to see the continuing growth of the Internet; wireless networks; social media; and the number of mobile devices, sensors and other digital technology that is flooding us with new data every minute of every day.
Analysts agree that organizations able to harness data stand to gain a competitive advantage. Web 2.0 companies like Google and Facebook have led the charge into the big data era--data is undeniably their bread and butter, and they have helped to create much of the technology that makes leveraging big data possible. Large enterprises, too, are poised to use big data to take their businesses to new heights. Demand forecasting, targeted marketing, fraud detection, medical research--the list of potential uses is seemingly endless.
"The growing access to this massive volume of information--and the ability to refine and analyze it--makes it a new type of raw material, on par with capital and labor," Emergent Technology and Intuit (maker of QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax) write in a new research report that forecasts data trends for the next seven years. "Advanced analytics will move from the domain of specialists to everyday users. Data will be a key driver of global economic growth in the 21st century digital economy, with a profound effect on all aspects of society--business, science, health care, finance, government and entertainment."
Will Big Data Create a New Digital Divide?
But what about the little guy? What about small businesses that do not have the resources to harness big data technology like their large enterprise competitors do? Will big data create a new form of digital divide?
No, says Intuit President and CEO Brad Smith. Instead, Smith says that (with Intuit's help) big data enables a new "data democracy" that will help small business owners and consumers use data as effectively as their large competitors.
"Big data has long been seen as a big opportunity for big business," he says. "We actually think that the biggest opportunity is giving consumers and small businesses the power of data. We look forward to a new era where big data benefits the little guy."
The report, The New Data Democracy: How Big Data Will Revolutionize the Lives of Small Businesses and Consumers, supports Smith's belief.
Big Data Will Help Consumers Save Time and Money
In the report, Emergent Technologies and Intuit note that the past few decades have increasingly seen risk management responsibilities shift from institutions to individuals--a trend that is likely to continue. At the same time, insurance, health care, retirement and other financial issues are growing more intricate.
"Data-driven solutions will come to the rescue, helping simplify--and even make--these decisions," the report says. "Over the next five to seven years, emerging technologies and new analytical tools will convert daunting data streams into actionable information that will ease personal decision making, reduce uncertainty and save individuals both time and money."