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Companies Value Big Data But Are Still Hesitating, Says IBM

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Lack of understanding may be holding up Big Data, says a study from IBM and Oxford University

Organisations are looking to Big Data for future profits – but most are at an early stage, according to an IBM-backed report. And when they get started, they may be stymied by a lack of skills.

Nearly two-thirds of UK organisations want to use Big Data for competitive advantage, according to a study by IBM and Oxford University’s Said Business School. However, around 70 percent of those polled are at the early stages of introducing the technology – exploring the subject and learning what it is about.

Janet Smart Said Business School Big DataBig Data adoption

“Companies that need information quickly are moving fastest into Big Data,” said Janet Smart, a senior research fellow at the Said Business School (pictured).

Big Data is typically characterised by three Vs: volume, velocity and variety – and the need for fast results from big information sets  is one factor pushing users to the new paradigm, where processing is shifted to often-unstructured data and carried out on low-cost clusters of hardware.

Researchers spoke to around 1100 people from 130 companies to produce the report, Analytics: The real world uses of Big Data. It is the latest in a series from IBM, but the first to involve the Said Business School.

Almost two-thirds of UK businesses in the survey recognised the competitive advantage of Big Data, compared with only 34 percent in 2010.

IBM - Big Data Infographic

Despite this, few organisations are doing much. Only 39 percent are analysing their social media data, and the same percentage analyse external fields. Asked why they aren’t doing much, firms said they didn’t really understand Big Data yet: 42 percent said there was a “lack of understanding of how to use Big Data to impact business”.

Fears of a skills gap were raised at an IBM event to launch the report. Some skills can be ported across so those versed in SQL can become Big Data experts, but most Big Data projects are still in the hands of early adopters or “enthusiasts”, said Smart.

“At the Said Business School, we are adding a Big Data module to our MBA,” said Smart. “Other courses are being designed.”

One firm already using Big Data was at the IBM event: InsureTheBox, a car insurance firm which bases its premiums on assessing real time feeds of data from a tachometer in the customer’s car.

“We see how you have been driving,” said Avi Marco, interim CTO of InsureTheBox, which currently has around 100,000 customers with policies.  “We have a vast amount of metrics. We have 300 million miles of data, and we are adding 25 million more each month.”

As well as offering better premiums to good drivers, the company offers other benefits, including the ability to help drivers improve their driving, for both safety and economy.

By measuring speed and g-forces, the company’s technology can also provide an instant crash report, alerting the emergency services when appropriate, and providing data at 100th of a second intervals. “We’ve recorded 111,000 incidents,” said Marco.

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