Investing in Big Data: opportunities and risks


9:00 am

16 September 2020

The nature of Big Data

In our era, data plays an indispensable role in all decision-making processes for companies, institutions and even for individual members of the public. Digitalisation has turned everything into data: words, geographical locations, social interactions… even regular objects become data once connected up to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Big Data is the key production factor in this data-driven economy: the use of Big Data analysis techniques has paved the way for improvements and innovations in a range of different areas, creating new services and improving the existing ones, while innovating production and distribution services and – most importantly – accommodating the needs of consumers and citizens with all types of products and services (including non-digital ones).

Big Data represents a step forward in terms of the way we interpret our economic and social reality through forms of analysis (data mining) undertaken on enormous quantities of data (volume) in very different formats (variety), which are then stored and processed at an increasingly fast speed (often in real time).

The Big Data ecosystem

The following are the key players in the Big Data ecosystem:

  • data generators (or data suppliers);
  • suppliers of technological resources, particularly data management platforms;
  • users, i.e. people who use big data to create added value;
  • data brokers, i.e. the organisations that collect data from a variety of public and private sources and sell these to other organisations;
  • research companies and organisations whose activity is crucial to the development of new technologies and new algorithms through which to explore data and extract value;
  • public bodies, including both market regulatory bodies and public administration working to improve the products and services on offer to citizens and increase collective well-being.

These groups are closely linked within the Big Data ecosystem, to the extent that it is difficult to identify the individual markets within the sector. This results in a scenario in which only a few multi-national companies operate, with a high level of integration across all phases, in addition to a very high number of small, specialist companies.

The Big Data market

It’s no coincidence that the global Big Data market is growing at an exponential rate year on year: the industry was worth $35 billion in 2017, but it’s estimated that the sector will reach $103 billion in value within just ten years. Big companies control the lion’s share of the sector, accounting for 87% of overall spending, but the investment of SMEs is growing every year too.

More specifically:

  • 42% of spending is on software (databases, tools and applications for acquiring, viewing and analysing data)
  • 33% goes on services (software personalisation, integration with company IT systems and redesigning processes)
  • 25% goes on what is known as “enabling infrastructure” (calculation, server and storage capability).

Among the big companies involved, banks are the biggest investors in Big Data Analytics (28% of the total), followed by manufacturing industry (24%), telecommunications and the media (14%), public administration and healthcare (7%), services (8%), large-scale distribution (7%), utilities (6%) and insurance (6%).

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