DATA IS THE NEW OIL - CRUDE OIL

Krishen Patel our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 9/2/2013 2:16 PM

When Nasdaq stopped trading this week, it again showed how global firms are at the mercy of a power that created them

"Data is the new oil," declared Clive Humby, a Sheffield mathematician who with his wife, Edwina Dunn, made £90m helping Tesco with its Clubcard system. Though he said it in 2006, the realization that there is a lot of money to be made – and lost – through the careful or careless marshalling of "big data" has only begun to dawn on many business people.

The crash that knocked out the Nasdaq trading system was only one example; in the past week, Amazon, Google and Apple have all suffered breaks in service that have affected their customers, lost sales or caused inconvenience. When Amazon's main shopping site went offline for nearly an hour, estimates suggested millions of dollars of sales were lost. When Google went offline for just four minutes this month, the missed chance to show adverts to searchers could have cost it $500,000.

Michael Palmer, of the Association of National Advertisers, expanded on Humby's quote: "Data is just like crude. It's valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down, analyzed for it to have value."

For Amazon and Google especially, being able to process and store huge amounts of data is essential to their success. But when it goes wrong – as it inevitably does – the effects can be dramatic. And the biggest problem can be data which is "dirty", containing erroneous or garbled entries which can corrupt files and throw systems into a tailspin. That can cause the sort of "software glitch" that brought down the Nasdaq – or lead to servers locking up and a domino effect of overloading.

"Whenever I meet people I ask them about the quality of their data," says Duncan Ross, director of data sciences at Teradata, which provides data warehousing systems for clients including Walmart, Tesco and Apple. "When they tell me that the quality is really good, I assume that they haven't actually looked at it."

That's because the systems businesses use increasingly rely on external data, whether from governments or private companies, which cannot be assumed to be reliable. Ross says: "It's always dirty."

And that puts businesses at the mercy of the occasional high-pressure data spill. Inject the wrong piece of data and trouble follows. In April, when automatic systems read a tweet from the Associated Press Twitter feed which said the White House had been bombed and Barack Obama injured, they sold stock faster than the blink of an eye, sending the US Dow index down 143 points within seconds. But the data was dirty: AP's Twitter feed had been hacked.

The statistics are stunning: about 90% of all the data in the world has been generated in the past two years (a statistic that is holding roughly true even as time passes). There are about 2.7 zettabytes of data in the digital analytics universe, where 1ZB of data is a billion terabytes (a typical computer hard drive these days can hold about 0.5TB, or 500 gigabytes). IBM predicts that will hit 8ZB by 2015. Facebook alone stores and analyzes more than 50 petabytes (50,000 TB) of data.

Data is also moving faster than ever before: by last year, between 50% and 70% of all trades on US stock exchanges was being done by machines which could execute a transaction in less than a microsecond (millionth of a second). Internet connectivity is run through fibre optic connections where financial companies will seek to shave five milliseconds from a connection so those nanosecond-scale transactions can be done even more quickly.

We're also storing and processing more and more of it. But that doesn't mean we're just hoarding data, says Ross: "The pace of change of markets generally is so rapid that it doesn't make sense to retain information for more than a few years.

"If you think about something like handsets or phone calls, go back three or four years and the latest thing was the iPhone 3GS and BlackBerrys were really popular. It's useless for analysis. The only area where you store data for any length of time is regulatory work."

Yet the amount of short-term data being processed is rocketing. Twitter recently rewrote its entire back-end database system because it would not otherwise be able to cope with the 500m tweets, each as long as a text message, arriving each day. (By comparison, the four UK mobile networks together handle about 250m text messages a day, a figure is falling as people shift to services such as Twitter.)

Raffi Krikorian, Twitter's vice-president for "platform engineering" – that is, in charge of keeping the ship running, and the whale away – admits that the 2010 World Cup was a dramatic lesson, when goals, penalties and free kicks being watched by a global audience made the system creak and quail.

A wholesale rewrite of its back-end systems over the past three years means it can now "withstand" events such as the showing in Japan of a new film called Castle in the Sky, which set a record by generating 143,199 tweets a second on 2 August at 3.21pm BST. "The number of machines involved in serving the site has been decreased anywhere from five to 12 times," he notes proudly. Even better, Twitter has been available for about 99.9999% of the past six months, even with that Japanese peak.

Yet even while Twitter moved quickly, the concern is that other parts of the information structure will not be resilient enough to deal with inevitable collapses – and that could have unpredictable effects.

"We've had mains power for more than a century, but can have an outage caused by somebody not resetting a switch," says Ross. "The only security companies can have is if they build plenty of redundancy into the systems that affect our lives."


Click here for the article on the web.

Related blog & news

With over 10 years experience working solely in the Data & Analytics sector our consultants are able to offer detailed insights into the industry.

Visit our Blogs & News portal or check out the related posts below.

MeasureCamp Berlin

MeasureCamp Berlin: A Preview

In preparation for this year's MeasureCamp Berlin, we sat down with Benjamin Bock, communications lead, to discuss what to expect, as well as his thoughts on the industry in general. Here's what he had to say: Can you explain MeasureCamp for people who haven’t been yet? MeasureCamp is an open, free-to-attend analytics 'un-conference' made by analytics professionals for analytics professionals (and everyone who wants to get there) around the globe. In that sense, it’s different to any conference you know of. Our schedule is created on the day of the event, and our speakers are fellow attendees. Listen to talks, give a talk, and discuss topics that really tickle your fancy. What can we expect at MeasureCamp Berlin this year? Let’s begin with what you can’t and never will expect at MeasureCamp Berlin: Sales pitch presentations. We’ve all been there… you are visiting a fancy, expensive conference and all you get is Heads of 'This n’ That' talking about what their team did, what they spent money on and that you should buy Product X to be as Data-driven as them (mind the cynicism). At MeasureCamp you can expect talks and discussion rounds by around 150 fellow experts, who all know the daily adventures of cleaning Data, setting up analytics or debugging tracking code or running mind-bending analysis first hand.  What is your best tip for someone that has never been at MeasureCamp before? Don’t rush it! MeasureCamp is about mingling with the analytics community as much as it is about the talks and discussion rounds. Pick a few talks that really interest you and use the rest of the day to get to know other attendees. Our awesome sponsors are also more than happy to talk to you. What is the best advice you got last year at MeasureCamp? On a personal level, I was able to get some really good advice when it came to data privacy topics. GDPR was still fairly fresh and nobody really knew if what they had done was actually enough to not get into trouble. That’s the kind of advice you only get if you have the chance to talk to other professionals face to face. On another note, what are the most sought-after skills and technologies currently used? I can only speak of my experience here. On a hard skill level and depending on the individual role, you need a solid understanding of web technologies (JavaScript, HTML, CSS) and tag managing systems to be able to implement tracking (plus some knowledge in mobile development when your focus lies on apps). When it comes to analysing and visualising Data, you should understand the tool you are working with and its underlying Data-structures. Being able to retrieve tool-agnostic Data with SQL and running more sophisticated calculations (e.g. with Python) has become more and more important over the last few years. But there are some softer skills, that should not be overlooked as well. As an analytics professional, you should never assume that your knowledge and language are common ground. You need to be a strong communicator, who is able to explain complicated concepts broken down to the absolute basics. In your opinion, what will be the biggest challenge in digital analytics in the next year? Two weeks ago, I would have answered “bringing web and app Data together”. Now that we know Google is working on that topic, it’s still a challenge, but one I am happy to tackle in the coming year. Digital Analytics is constantly changing. What do you expect to be the most talked about topic at MeasureCamp this year? As a Tracking Specialist with a focus on Google products, I’d love to hear some talks about Google Tag Manager Custom Templates. But my top guess is, that the newly released Apps and Web properties beta for Google Analytics will be the talk of the hour. MeasureCamp Berlin is an open and free-to-attend 'un-conference', taking place this year on the 28th of September. The final batch of tickets will be released on the 21st of August at 03:00 PM (CEST). Click here for more information and to get hold of your place. 

Where Tech Meets Tradition

Where Tech Meets Tradition

If you’re lamenting the decline of handmade traditional products, cast your cares aside. There’s a new Sheriff in town and its name is, Tech. Just a generation ago, children would leave the farm or the family business, go to school, and then move on to make their place in the world doing their own thing. Away from family.  Today, the landscape has changed and those who have left are coming home. But this time, they’re bringing technology with them to help make things more efficient and more productive. Is Tech-Assisted Still Handmade? In a word, yes. Artists still make things “from scratch”, except now technologies allow them to not only see their vision in real-time, but their customers, too. Have you ever wondered what the image in your head might look like on paper or in metal? What about the design of prosthetic arms and healthcare devices by 3D printers? You’re still designing, creating.  But just like any new technology, there’s still a learning curve. Even for cutting-edge craftspeople who find that sometimes, the line between craftsmanship and high-tech creativity may be a bit of a blur. Not to mention the expense for either the equipment required or being able to offer art using traditional tools at technology-assisted prices. Somewhere between the two, there is a trade-off. It’s up to the individual to determine where and what that trade-off is. Life in the Creative Economy One of Banksy’s paintings shredded itself upon purchase at an auction recently. AI is making music and writing books. Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Blockchain all have their place in the creative economy from immersive entertainment to efficient manufacturing processes. Each of these touches the way we live now. In a joint study between McKinsey and the World Economic Forum, 'Creative Disruption: The impact of emerging technologies on the creative economy', the organisations broke down the various technologies used in the creative economy and how they’re driving change. For example: AI is being used to distill user preferences when it comes to curating movies and music. The Associated Press has used AI to free up reporters’ time and the Washington Post has created a tool to help it generate up to 70 articles a month, many stories of which they wouldn’t have otherwise dedicated staff.Machine Learning has begun to create original content. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have come together as a new medium to help move people to get up, get active, and go play whether it’s a stroll through a virtual art gallery or watching your children play at the playground.  Where else might immersive media play out? Content today could help tell humanitarian stories or offer work-place diversity training. But back to the artisan handicrafts.  Artistry with technology Whilst publishing firms may be looking to use AI to redefine the creative economy, they are not alone. Other artists utilising these technologies include:  SculptorsDigital artistsPaintersJewellery makersBourbon distillers America’s oldest distiller has gotten on the technology bandwagon and while there is no rushing good Bourbon, but you can manage the process more efficiently. They’ve even taken things a step further and have created an app for aficionados to follow along in the process. Talk about crafted and curated for individual tastes and transparency. It may seem almost self-explanatory to note how other artisans are using technology. But what about distilleries? What are they doing? They’re creating efficiency by: Adding IoT sensors for Data Analytics collection Adding RFID tags to their barrels Creating experimental ageing warehouses (AR, anyone?) to refine their craft. Don’t worry, though. These changes won’t affect the spirit itself. After all, according to Mr. Wheatley, Master Distiller, “There’s no way to cheat mother nature or father time.” Ultimately, the idea is to not only understand the history behind the process, but to make it more efficient and repeatable. A way to preserve the processes of the past while using the advances of the present with an eye to the future. If you’re interested in using Data & Analytics to drive creativity, we may have a role for you. Take a look at our latest opportunities or get in touch with one of our expect consultants to find out more. 

RELATED Jobs

Salary

£400 - £450 per day

Location

Manchester, Greater Manchester

Description

A top price comparison site is looking to add a talented Talend Data Engineer to their Manchester team helping them to better understand customer data.

Salary

£50000 - £60000 per annum

Location

London

Description

Are you a commercially minded Insight Analyst with a strong numerical stats background? This is company that places TECH at the heart of their business

Salary

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits

Location

Nottingham, Nottinghamshire

Description

We are working with one of the largest and best known Credit Card providers in the UK. They are seeking a Fraud Strategy Analyst.

Salary

£40000 - £55000 per annum

Location

West London, London

Description

Looking to move away from campaign analytics? Want to use your strategic skills to their fullest? Fancy a client-side role? this is for you!

recently viewed jobs