Summary of the Big Data landscape in 2012

Looking back on 2012, it’s sure been an amazing year for Big Data. Several high profile headlines have enabled Big Data to move from a niche to a mainstream (i.e., beyond IT) topic and have accordingly sparked interest in understanding its full potential. Following are a few of the most notable Big Data stories of the year.

London Summer Olympics

Managing an event on the scale of the Olympic Games is always a challenge. But London was the first Olympics in the era of Big Data that could tap into evolving technologies to improve the experience of athletes, spectators, and the global fan community. This includes everything from overall event security to logistics/transportation management, real-time information sharing, and social media optimization. Here’s a great infographic from Forbes highlighting the scale of Big Data from the 2012 Olympics:

Source: Forbes London Olympics Get Gold Medal for Big Data (Infographic)

Health Care

Health care is a prime opportunity for Big Data to leverage predictive analytics, and we have only begun to scratch the surface. So much data is generated yet it is far too siloed to act upon given its varied structure. Pioneers began to take significant steps in 2012 to tackle these challenges and set the stage for future milestones to be reached. Imagine if Big Data could help find a cure for cancer. It’s a true possibility. In addition, fitness devices like the Fitbit are enabling individuals to capture and analyze their own data. The intersection of human and machine data presents incredible opportunities. Here’s more from Wired.

The US Presidential Election

The Obama and Romney US presidential campaigns each leveraged Big Data to reach their respective voter bases. Given some very close but critical precincts, a laser-focused approach was required to reach voters who could be the most influential, either from a financial contribution or voter turnout perspective. Does the name Nate Silver ring a bell? The New York Times blogger and statistician seemed to have more capabilities than either campaign as he ended up successfully predicting outcomes in key battleground states. This demonstrates the power of accessible Big Data.

Here’s more on Big Data and the election from The Guardian.


As more and more data is aggregated, analyzed, and reused, privacy has become a very hot topic. Aside from Twitter, which is widely understood to be a publicly exposed social media channel, companies housing less public user data such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and Instagram dominated headlines in 2012 as their dynamic privacy policies coupled with high-profile exploits caused confusion among their customers.

More from Rack59 on responsible use of Big Data.

Looking Forward to 2013

What will 2013 bring to the world of Big Data? Given the pace of change, it’s certainly difficult to predict.

Here are my top five predictions:

  1. We will continue to see advancements in technology and capabilities for managing and analyzing Big Data.
  2. This will lead to more use cases, more rapid value, and undoubtedly more controversy around privacy.
  3. Organizations will emerge to help manage your data preferences across multiple organizations – think the unbiased role and (ideal) transparency of a credit bureau. A recent article from The Economist shows that “Data Lockers” are already emerging.
  4. The Cloud will take center stage from a Big Data infrastructure perspective.
  5. Real-time access to Big Data will lead to a new level of personalization in popular channels like Facebook, particularly from a mobile app standpoint.

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