Of the five defining characteristics of Big Data – volume, velocity, veracity, variety and value, which are popularly referred to as the five Vs of Big Data – 'variety' continues to be the most untamed, unexplored and feared characteristic. The case is same with organisations of all sizes and across all industries.
Variety is also the one characteristic that remains steady across all organisations. Whether you're a large government agency or a medium-sized enterprise, you're going to struggle with a rapid inflow of massive, diverse data, which you must sift, sort and deal with. Working with all varieties of incoming data to ensure it's cleanliness and accuracy before performing analytics, is challenging to say the least. It's costly and time-consuming.
But there's an advantage
Variety in Big Data refers to collecting data from multiple sources to understand a problem and make smarter, more informed decisions. Clear, uncomplicated access to an extensive variety of data is also the key to creating platforms that boost innovation and efficiency.
Efficiencies and innovations can be driven within an organisation with clean and well-structured data. When combining multiple sources, quality, accuracy are first for good analytics. The challenge is to define a structure, clear redundant and duplicate data before it is usable.
The advantage of the big picture
Consider an example – the case of a brick-and-mortar retailer using Big Data on sales figures to optimise sales and increase profits. What happens when the retailer adds a broader variety of sources to its data pool? Data about the weather and geographical conditions plus social media interactions, about the sales data of every day.
It is easy to understand the retailer will be able to gather more insight into what makes sales figures peak and plunge. A social media campaign promotes word-of-mouth and boosts sales. Poor weather or store accessibility reduces sales. Using these correlations, the retailer will be able to:
1. Make more accurate sales predication and forecast,
2. Optimise inventory, staffing and other operations,
3. Prepare in advance for a drop in sales, and
4. Simulate (one or more of) the conditions to improve sales.
For governments as well as organisations and agencies working within the public sector, the benefits of such data variety only multiply. By collecting data from different sources to assess an opportunity or solve a problem, they can find better solutions. Rather, better, more popular solutions that are in-line with the wishes and expectations of the people (and not just lawmakers), which is the key to good digital governance.
Recent event run by Infocomm Development Authority (IDA)
IDA ran an event that was based around an IDA Media Masterplan idea of a Data-as-a-Service, called the Data Marketplace. This comprised of public and private sector data, collected then delivered from a standardised environment, it enabled the discovery of those datasets. This variety of data opened insights and opportunities for industry, combining the datasets to discover new ideas. It presented its own challenges, that of standerdising the structure and elements. The event was to build an understanding how to monetise and develop new products and services, creating economic, social and environmental benefits. The promising ideas could then be used to commercialise and start new businesses.
The value of these datasets increase as more become available, increasing the insights that are possible. The challenge is that each of the datasets would have it's own structure and conventions, because of the variety of sources. It has been touted that Big Data is the "New gold" of the 21st century. Many innovative services and products have been developed since having access to these types of services. This has provided improvements to industries and society increasing the potential of possibilities.
Data Discovery Challenge – IDA's event held Feb 2015
In February 2015, IDA ran an event called Data Discovery Challenge. The event was a competition on harnessing data that would drive innovation to enable a Smart Nation for businesses and consumers. The idea was to create an app that could bring a benefit to our society, using the datasets within the Data Marketplace. Some of these apps could save money and the environment when buying home appliances. Others were to aid businesses to better plan their delivery routes, saving time and resources. All of these ideas used datasets from both public and government. The contestants came from budding entrepreneurs, innovators and start-ups. Contestants had the opportunity to win, not only cash prizes as well as the opportunity to be placed in the TAG.PASS acceleration programme offered by the investment arm of IDA.
IDA was heartened by the variety of competitors that applied to compete in the Data Discovery Challenge, it enabled them to be a part of IDA’s journey. The ideas presented will help Singapore advance on their Smart City journey. The Data Discovery Challenge has shown a clear mechanism for driving innovation, inspiring more insights using data. These types of challenges will continue to inspire more ideas into the future and Infocomm Investment Pte Ltd (IIPL). IIPL are looking forward to further developing the skillsets of the winning teams from these types of challenges.
The data used in this challenge were sorts from the Federated Dataset Register (FDSR). It seeks to provide a coherent method to discovery of private datasets. FDSR launched as a part of the Data-as-a-Service pilot. It supports the developing Data Marketplace that hosts these datasets as a shared resource for both the public and private sector. This was one of the ideas promoted as part of the Infocomm Media Masterplan to encourage developing a supporting ecosystems to our Smart Nation vision.