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Getting ready for a new era of Big Data

Tobias PreisAccording to computer giant IBM the world is churning out 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.

That is a lot of data spiraling in from mobile phones texts, social media sites, digital videos and pictures, GPS signals, company’s transaction records and lots more, so much so that 90 per cent of the data in the world today was created in the last two years.

This is Big Data and how to use this data to improve your business, make policy decisions for Governments and local authorities is becoming a science – a computational social science.

How businesses use the data it is churning out is becoming increasingly important, especially as the internet is now central to our daily lives.

A new generation of Big Data analysts are needed to help companies get the best out of the data they are producing and so Warwick Business School has put together a Big Data Analytics module for its Masters courses.

Warwick Business School Associate Professor Tobias Preis, who has designed the module, said: “Technology is becoming ever more deeply interwoven into the fabric of society. The digital traces left behind by our interactions with technology offer an unprecedented opportunity for a better understanding of human behaviour and for companies to find out how their customers behave.

“Big online data can provide early warning signals for riots, election results, diseases spreading and responses to natural disasters. In the business world firms can exploit Big Data to find out quicker about consumer behaviour and economic or financial instability. Used well these rapidly growing data resources can give an insight into how people are behaving or even make it possible to anticipate major societal events.

“Mining and using Big Data is going to become more and more important for companies and Governments,” said Dr Preis, who also discovered a correlation between Google search volumes for financial terms and movement in the stock market. “In this module we will look at the huge amount of data being generated by our daily interaction with technology. Every day five billion search requests are answered by Google alone and then there is Twitter, Flickr and other social media sites that provide extremely valuable complementary data for analytics of human decision making.

“The worldwide web is a huge database of human decision-making and human interaction, along with mobile phones and other digital traces. We can exploit this to aggregate human behaviour.”

And used properly Dr Preis, who along with Dr Suzy Moat also revealed how Wikipedia could have been used as early warning signs of stock market movements, believes Big Data can help to even predict human behaviour.

“Learning how to use this data is of crucial importance to learn about the behaviour of people, and the rationality of how we behave economically,” said Dr Preis, who also advises US government agencies on making use of online digital traces. “We can use this as proper evidence for business decisions and for Government policy and it is data that is very up-to-date, so up-to-date that it can be used to anticipate or in some cases even predict human behaviour. Learning how to do that will be useful for any business or organisation."