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Big Data: It may be big but is it smart?


​In a relatively short space of time computing has become ubiquitous, leaving behind it an indelible trail of our activities. From the obvious electronic devices we use every day (smartphones, ebook readers, laptops, etc.) to the trails of our interactions with businesses from the items we purchased to who we communicated with, the potential to paint a detailed picture of our lives has never been so easily achievable.

Big Data is the term loosely used to describe this exponential increase in data volumes, alongside the growth in our ability to transfer, store and analyze. It seemingly promises to deliver invaluable insight that would not otherwise have been possible by conventional means. Of course, speculation of the commercial benefits of using Big Data has been widely debated, with one key study indicating that organisations applying analytics to Big Data are over twice as likely to substantially outperform their industry peers (1). Furthermore, a recent global survey found business executives typically believed that Big Data will improve organisational performance by 41% over the next three years (2).

Yet despite the high expectations and obvious benefits delivered by Big Data, we consider that, in its current form, there are limitations in the extent it can be used to understand effectively the consumer. As such, the vast potential value of Big Data will not be realised. In this document a case is made for a new perspective to the area that addresses this; a manifesto, in fact, for ‘Smart Data’. But first, let’s look at the benefits and opportunities that Big Data has delivered.

The potential to use Big Data approaches in traditionally non-digital spheres is increasingly accepted. The retail experience demonstrates this; whilst optimising the retail proposition and experience is achievable online using the huge amount of data available, it has been more difficult to achieve in the bricks and mortar store. Here, however, innovations increasingly enable us to generate Big Data through innovations such as image-analysis of in-store cameras to monitor traffic patterns, tracking positions of shoppers from mobile phone signals, shopping cart transponders and use of RFID.

The arrival of the Big Data era has generally been considered positive, creating many new opportunities for businesses to profit from the insight it can deliver. So what are some of these benefits?

Read the full report.