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Introduction to Big Data and Characteristics of Big Data

Big Data is a term which has been bandied around quite a lot in the recent past. However one thing that most people do not seem to realize is the sheer size of the data. The average phone today has what 32 GB internal storage while the biggest hard drive in the market has a capacity of 10TB. These seem to be quite extensive however shrink to insignificance when compared to the amount of data produced each day which is 2.5 Quintillion bytes which is equivalent to 1 billion GB. And this is the amount of data created every single day which is expected to increase in the future.

This should explain to you about the "Big" in Big Data although it does seem like a gross understatement. However, a large data set is not the only Characteristics of Big Data. The other characteristics of Big Data are explained in detail below.

Characteristics of Big Data

Due to the rapidly evolving nature of Big Data, the Characteristics of Big Data are continually analyzed and improved upon. Some of the most important characteristics of Big Data include:

  • Velocity: While the volume is one of the most talked about Characteristics of Big Data, the Velocity of Data Creation is also equally important.
    • The whole reason that the Big Data revolution has occurred is the sheer speed at which the data is being created.
    • Creation of huge databases would not be an issue if they happened over time since it means that its analysis can be done a relatively sedate pace. However the velocity at which data is being created is quite unprecedented.
    • 90% of the data that exists today has been created over the past two years and the speed of the data is going to increase in the future.
    • Even now, we are creating data about ourselves by searching for a topic and reading up on it from the Google Search Results in not just Google servers also in the website that we have just browsed. This data could be detailed if you have signed in or created a profile on the website or may be abstract in terms of traffic and the consumer flow through the website.
    • Google is one of the biggest culprits in the booming velocity of the data creation with over 40,000 search queries generated per second. The personal data that Google has on each of us is available online and most likely amounts to over 1 GB each.
  • Variety: There are several Characteristics of Big Data and another important Characteristics of Big Data is the Variety of Big Data available to us today. This richness in the data set means that the data can be used to understand the consumer much better than ever before. There are several different forms/ Varieties that Big Data can take such as:
    • Structured: Some of the data that is received is in a fixed format such as data collected in the form of surveys and forms. This data is available in a well-structured format which can be analyzed with several Big Data algorithms without much data preparation. This, however, represents only a small percentage of the Data Available which makes our job more difficult. This data is usually in the form of a SQL Database.
    • Semi-Structured: This is the type of data in which the data is organized in the form of dimensions but are not completely uniform. There is a need to clean this data before it can analyzed using the different algorithms available to us.
    • Abstract: The majority of data captured by us is abstract in nature. These datasets are not compatible with the techniques available to us. These datasets have to be worked on differently to extract useful information from them or methods have to be devised to bring more order in the data.
  • Variability: The variability in the data can be in several different ways. The data could be variable due to missing data or dimensions which are not common in the who dataset. In these cases, the dataset has to be cleaned using different techniques before it can used for any analysis.
  • Veracity: This is one of the Characteristics of Big Data which has taken center stage in recent times. The huge volume means that the reliability of data has decreased. As the awareness of Big Data and the manner in which the companies use it increases, the customer becomes more wary about sharing any data which also proliferates the generation of fake data. Apart from the danger of faked data, the volume of data also means that the outliers and exceptions get averaged out which makes identification of these cases extremely difficult.

Benefits of Big Data

One thing that each company wants to do is earn as much profit as possible. In order to do this, the company needs to work on acquiring as many customers as possible and retain the customers that they have captured. Thus customer satisfaction becomes extremely important for the company.
One of the ways of improving the customer satisfaction levels is through Big Data Analytics. Using the vast amount of data, the service levels of the company can be improved such that the customer satisfaction levels increase. This is where the Characteristics of Big Data come into play with the volume, velocity, variety, and variability of the Data allowing the companies to make more accurate decisions.
Some of the companies who have used this method to retain and attract customers are:

  • Starbucks is not generally the company to mind when thinking about the Machine Learning Technology. Starbucks utilized Machine Learning to introduce personalization in the service by displaying the preferred beverage of each returning customer. Apart from increasing personalization, it has also improved the turnaround time and improved customer service.
  • Burberry is a retail store who has taken the huge amount of data that is garnered in the retail setting to improve their own operations. Burberry, like many retail giants, have their own application which they use to gather as much data as possible about their customers in order to generate recommendations. The innovative part about their operation is that these recommendations are not confined to the digital space but appear on the database of the company itself. Thus when the customer enters an Burberry store, the floor staff has some information on the customer and are able to personalize the experience of each customer.
  • PepsiCo is using Machine Learning and Big Data to make their supply chain more efficient. The distributors and vendors are connected to HQ through POS machines which send real time data to the Head Quarters. The computers at the Head Office, after interpreting the data, identifies the service points which have to be replenished in order to keep the shelves stocked.


The Characteristics of Big Data are what make it so useful for all companies. The fact that Big Data allows you to create a virtual profile for your customers means that the services that have been designed can be that much more personalized and appropriate.

There are too many applications of Big Data to count because, at the end of the day, it represents our interpretation of the given data. This means that everyone can have a different perspective which can lead to different conclusions and different actions. These Characteristics of Big Data are immensely useful for the companies.