Is big data useful?

26 Jul 2014 9:00 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

Big Data in 'in' - its a fashionable topic, its 'cool' and exciting.  But is it useful?


What are the applications where it will 'make a difference' - on a global level.


Well, I've been doing some work in Agri-business recently.... and one useful trend has been to make data available (on yields, prices and so on) to farmers so they can take better-informed decisions about when and how to harvest and sell what they produce.


Now, however, big data is moving up that value chain - by offering information to farmers - on soil condition, on weather patterns, on past production, on competitors' production.


How do we get the data?  Well, farmers give it to us - it is anonymised - so they can share the data pool ... and experiments are starting to send out drones to observe directly what is happening.  It starts out being small data but soon grows - especially when you do this over several regions.


So, big data can be useful - like most other fields, it just needs someone to work out how to exploit it for commercial gain.  When that gain has social benefits (in terms of giving farmers information which helps them negotiate better with the 'middlemen' taking produce for processing).... so much the better.

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