10 Big Data Predictions for the Future

By Bernard Marr

Big data is a fast-moving field and sometimes innovations come pretty much out of nowhere and take everyone by surprise. But sometimes it’s useful to take a peek into the crystal ball and see where things might be heading. Here are some predictions for the big moves and developments in big data in the near future:

  • The big data market will grow by more than 25 per cent a year. The figure comes from market research specialists IDC (International Data Corporation) that predicts that the big data technology and services market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26.4 per cent to $41.5 billion by 2018. That’s about six times the growth rate of the overall information technology market.

  • The Internet of Things will go mainstream. Wearable technologies and data-enabled devices are breaking out of the gadget-geek and early-adopter markets as more and more people want to be connected at all times. Expect to see (or perhaps be crashed into by!) your first person wearing smart glasses in the street pretty soon.

  • Machines will get better at making decisions. More often than not, big data acts as guidance for decisions mostly still made by people. Expect this to change in the near future as advances in machine learning bring us closer to the point where machines are capable of making more accurate and reliable decisions than people.

  • Textual analysis will become more widely used. Textual analysis has become increasingly sophisticated in the last few years and that trend will continue. Computers will become more proficient at reading a piece of text and spotting themes and sentiments – meaning this type of data can be classified and analysed in the same way as structured data.

  • Data visualisation tools will dominate the market. Specialised software designed to create visualisations from data, making it easier for us to spot patterns and links between cause and effect, will become increasingly sophisticated and widely used. This market is expected to grow two-and-a-half times more quickly than that for other business intelligence software products.

  • Personal data and privacy will become more important. It seems that more people than ever believe that giving corporations personal information is a small price to pay for the convenience and utility offered by new technology. But that may change soon – hackers have shown they’re able to compromise even the most secure systems. A devastating hack might be enough to start changing people’s attitudes and restoring a bit of common sense over how personal data is shared.

  • Retail will go very Big Brother on you. Plenty of retailers are already tracking how customers physically move around stores and what they stop to look at. Some even use personal information (for instance, if you’ve downloaded a store app) to target promotions and recommend products while you’re in-store. Increasingly, Wi-Fi data from your mobile phone will be combined with video data and even facial recognition software to identify your age and gender, even your exact identity – all so that products and promotions can be targeted with scary precision.

  • . . . And so will employers. Connected wearable devices are making their way into the workplace, allowing employers to track their employees’ activity and health. In fact, fitness tracking device manufacturer Fitbit recently said that employers make up their fastest growing market, so you can expect to see this trend continue.

  • The struggle to find big data talent will continue. This year, there are expected to be 4.4 million people employed worldwide in positions directly involved with big data analysis. But this isn’t enough, especially when you consider that almost 70 per cent of US businesses already have a big data strategy or are planning one for the near future. The number of colleges offering big data courses is growing rapidly, but the shortage of skilled workers is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

  • Small businesses will become just as obsessed with data as the big guys. In a data-driven world, those companies that can turn big data into valuable insights are the ones that will thrive. Companies that merely dip their toes in the big data pond on an ad-hoc basis will be left behind, and those that ignore big data altogether will wither away. This is true whether you’re a multinational corporation or a small business.