Big Data and Velocity

A student asked: “I understand that Big Data is about collecting a “Variety” of data in large “Volume” but why do we need to do it fast? What “Velocity” has to do with Big Data? Please explain.”

Answer: Big Data is new technology and new way to do business that can add many valuable advantages. It focuses on collect data from very large volumes of wide variety of data from many sources by enabling high velocity collection to extract valuable information and analyze them to create business advantages. Today companies around the world are excited about finding new ways to extract the volume and variety of data from social media, mobile devices, sensors, and other applications. However many are still having problem with velocity or the pace at which data can be collected, organized and analyzed to produce insights that business leaders can act quickly to generate instant business value.

The need for speed in Big Data is important because things happen fast. If a bank collects information to detect bad loans but finding them six weeks after loaning out many loans then it is too late to do something about it. The information collected is NOT valuable anymore. The bank needs velocity so it can identify bad loans while processing the application not after that. The same thing happen when stock market traders need to make decision on buying or selling when the stock market is going up or down, a few minutes late could means they have to pay higher price or selling at lower price and it means losing advantages.

In this fast changing market, speed is very important. Since data is often store in database which needs time to retrieve and update and it may be too late. There is new technology that can make things happen faster such as in-memory computing, will help cut the time it takes to access, retrieve, update and analyze information to few seconds because the data is in the computer where it is easy to extract instead of store them on disk drives that take time to search and retrieve.

Of course, technology is only part of the system. Companies need skilled data scientists and statisticians to develop fast analytic models and efficient algorithms to get valuable information to decision makers quickly. Data velocity is a business necessity that gives companies an opportunity to beat competitors in a highly competitive market. Few years ago, the jobs of data scientist, data engineer, data analyst did not even exist. Today every company need them and as the demand is high, more computer science students are moving into advanced degree in data science and develop skills in data manipulation, data analytics using Hadoop, Pig, and Hive, NonSQL, and MapReduce etc.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University