The 5 Vs of Big Data

Big data isn't some fly-by-night trend that's here today and will be gone tomorrow. It's becoming an integral part of our daily lives. Even if you are unfamiliar with the term, chances are you are using Big Data in some way, shape or form.

Aside from it being "big," however, there are other characteristics that define Big Data, including the following "Vs" that we're going to discuss today.

#1) Volume

Among the most defining characteristics of Big Data is volume. From social media posts and YouTube videos to stock market prices and corporate Intellectual Property (IP), to say there's a lot of data being transmitted and stored would be an understatement. Amit Singhal, Google's Vice President and team leader of Google Search development, revealed that the search engine giant processes some 100 billion searches every month and has identified more than 30 trillion unique URLs.

#2) Variety

A second characteristic of Big Data is variety. It wasn't long ago when the vast majority of data was structured, consisting of basic types that could easily be organized and curated into tables, charts, databases, etc. With unstructured data now surpassing its structured counterpart, however, this isn't the case. The good news is that Big Data can be used to organize both structured and unstructured data, allowing companies and individuals to use it for practical, real-world applications.

#3) Velocity

Velocity is essentially the speed at which data is generated and facilitated. Looking at Facebook for an example, 2.5 million pieces of content are created and shared every minute. On Twitter, users tweet 300,000 messages – 140 characters or less – every minute. Data must move fast in order to be characterized as Big.

#4) Variability

A lesser-known characteristic of Big Data is variability. This refers to data that's constantly changing in its meaning. Forrester analyst Brian Foster cited the IBM supercomputer “Watson” as being an example of this characteristic. Watson was constantly analyzing and dissecting the meaning of questions to determine the most appropriate answer.

#5) Veracity

Last but not least, veracity is a characteristic of Big Data. Veracity refers to the quality or “trustworthiness” of data. As pools of data grow larger, quality control becomes an issue. Just think of how difficult it would be to fact check each every website on the Internet. Even Wikipedia is riddled with false information – and that's just one website. Big Data, however, allows organizations to work with large pools of data, even if it contains errors and false information.

What About Cyber-Physical Systems?

In Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), a 6C system may be used to characterize Big Data instead of the traditional 5V.

  • Connection

  • Cloud

  • Cyber

  • Content and Context

  • Community

  • Customization

Photo credit: janneke staaks

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